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After the prolonged and difficult process, finally Indonesian Authority (represented by the ministry of manpower) acknowledged the National Front for Indonesian Worker’ Struggle (FNPBI) as one of the registered and legal national union. The decision (under register number Kep. 631/M/BW/2000) has been resoluted based on Kepmenaker No. 201/Men/1999 on trade unions. The same law previously refused FNPBI-Jabotabek (former KOBAR, member of FNPBI in Jakarta) as a registered union.

Although it was not registered yet, during the 15 months since its founding, FNPBI has been doing a marvelous trade unions works. It keeps organizing and developing the workplaces greatly. This has been proved through many parameters such as the development of branches based in provinces. From only 7 province branches, when it was founded, towards to 14 province branches, this assured before the second national congress. We didn’t deny that we also had problem due to our "illegal" status.

Being "illegal", FNPBI was refused several times to settle the industrial disputes. Both companies and government always questioned the legal status of FNPBI during the two-parties or three-party (with government) negotiation process. This position was used effectively to weaken the worker’ position. It led workers to loose their demands. Another important case was that workers refused to pay the membership dues. They would always thought that only the legal one "deserved" financial support from the workers, although they experienced themselves what FNPBI had been so faithful struggling for their interest. We didn’t want to ignore the company’ role in rejecting the automatic withdrawal from wage. While it was very important to finance the organization from the membership dues, FNPBI has been hardly to run its organization financially.

The process to become one of the 38 registered national unions is not an easy thing. When Indonesian government ratified the ILO Convention No. 87/1948 on the freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize, but still FNPBI received many barriers whenever it challenged the registration. It was not FNPBI nationally being refused by the local branches based in province. To be national union, all branches needed to be registered first. This step that we always failed. They use our people’ social democracy principle as against the Pancasila’ principle. In this sense, the freedom to organize was limited to the title of principle only. It didn’t view and control the work of organization to represent the interest of the workers. The samples of barrier we had were experienced from FNPBI-Jabotabek (previously known as KOBAR).

KOBAR was refused to be legal in accordance with its principle in the constitution. According to the government, KOBAR was highly orienting the political interest (on article 7). This was added to the objection on KOBAR principle, which based on the people’ democracy (article 5). It was only Pancasila, which was allowed to be the principle.

FNPBI-West Java (previously known as SBI) had to wait for 7 months together with obstacles and difficulties from the local authority. There was no reasonably illustration on this. Only the long mass action, taking place in the office of local government, which resulted on the legal status. All these experiences showed the inconsistency attitude of the government towards the freedom of association and the right to organize. The ILO’ ratification remained as an artificial performance to be democratic.

However, we shall not say that there has been a wide freedom of association, concluded from the legal status of FNPBI. There has not been full support and control of government. Formally, through the law constitution, we may say that there has been much progress. More important point is the implementation of the trade union’ work itself. Many facts showed that those companies, with support from the local authority and hired-thugs, many workers’ rights have been attacked. They were intimidated during the meetings. Many workers were taken to the police office without passing the law procedures whenever they come to workplaces or putting posters around the work sites.

The decision to register, by 18 of September 2,000, was part of the program and tactic to expand the organization’ work, especially responding the workers’ consciousness, which always seeks for the legal-formal status. The tactic is simply to easier its works in building and developing the Indonesian workers’ movement. This is also part of the tactics to lesson the workers that there is no significant changing towards the legal status but more to question of whether it is pro the people or not. This is related to the level of political consciousness that the real freedom can not be considered as a gift or good will but it has to be taken upon the hands of workers themselves. In addition, it can only be proved through the real works: fighting for the worker’ interest, both economically and politically.

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