While the government of Indonesia was quick to declare a national emergency over the COVID 19 virus on February 29, official responses have been largely run at the provincial level. Official numbers are climbing with cases reported in many regions.
West and Central Java governors have introduced social distancing and ordered the shuttering of garment factories in some districts on health grounds. Most Better Work factories, however, are still in operation but many are reporting cancelled and hold shipment orders from buyers. This is leading to cash flow problems and concerns about their ability to meet wage payments.
A key development in the government’s response was the issuing of a Ministry of Manpower circular on March 17. The circular offers advice on minimising the impact of COVID 19 in workplaces, including prioritising workplace OSH and social distancing. It also recommended that the wages of workers isolated or quarantined because of the disease be paid in full.
In cases where factories are being shuttered due to the cancellation and postponement of orders, the government is recommending that unions and businesses enter into negotiations over wage preservation and other issues.
The Indonesian government is considering but has yet to finalise any targeted stimulus or financial support for the industry.
Better Work supporting factories and social dialogue.
Better Work core services have been postponed until the end of March, and likely through April. Enterprise Advisors are in regular contact with their factories through phone calls and are ramping up virtual advisory visits, using a model being run successfully in Cambodia. A virtual industry seminar (training) is planned for mid-April.
BWI is supporting factories in implementing key OSH recommendations. It is developing guides in the forms of answers to frequently asked questions both for OSH and labour issues and sharing examples of best practices. A step by step action plan for factories to inform and protect workers has been rolled out using the latest ILO and WHO advice on social distancing, handwashing and other measures. A short video on good factory practices was distributed through social media accounts. Subsequently, many factories have instituted temperature screening, new handwashing regimes and distributed masks to workers.
The need for constructive social dialogue is proving to be crucial in the crisis, as an increasing number of factories are cutting back or suspending operations. Better Work is liaising with provincial and national governments to clarify policy on key questions, particularly the mechanism for wage negotiations in factories that are affected. The program is also providing advice to governments on social protection issues, and updating them with the latest ILO recommendations and information on how neighbouring countries, such as Singapore and the Philippines, are dealing with the pandemic.
Better Work Indonesia is also working with national employer associations APINDO and API and trade unions both to gauge their immediate response and look at medium-term issues of how to handle wage protection in cases of struggling businesses.