Jakarta Globe article
Indonesia will ratify the UN convention protecting migrant workers within two years, Manpower and Transmigration Minister Muhaimin Iskandar announced on Tuesday.
He said the government, which has delayed ratification of the 1990 convention despite having signed it in September 2004, was preparing the necessary regulations.
“Ratifying the convention means that Indonesia needs to ensure freedom of establishing labor organizations, insurance and legal aid for Indonesian migrant workers overseas,” Muhaimin said.
“We are working on this. I can see that we will finish preparations on the regulations and budget within one or two years.”
He added that his office needed to coordinate effectively with a number of other ministries over the matter, including the finance, foreign affairs and justice ministries.
Indonesia’s continued delay in approving the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, has been slammed by rights organizations nationwide.
They have pointed out that ratification was crucial since the country had been sending workers overseas since the 1980s.
Wahyu Susilo, a public policy analyst for the advocacy group Migrant Care, stated that “one or two years” was too long, considering that many of the six million Indonesian migrant workers were experiencing physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of their employers.
Ratification would provide a legal basis for migrant workers in settling disputes with employers and ensuring that their rights, including on matters of leave, working hours and pay, be met.
“The government needs to ratify it soon. It will really help our migrant workers overseas,” Wahyu said.
A group of nongovernmental organizations had previously called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s cabinet to ratify the convention within the first 100 days of his new administration.
The People’s Alliance for the 1990 Migrant Convention Ratification has argued that the measure would emphasize migrant workers’ rights, including deportation for workers facing problems overseas and the right to retain their own documents, including passports. The group criticized the Manpower Ministry over the sluggish pace of ratification.
“All  destination countries [of our migrant workers] have not ratified the convention. But this was not the main reason for not ratifying the convention until today,” Muhaimin said. “We need to prepare the regulations.”
According to the People’s Alliance, 42 countries had already ratified the convention, including Congo, Uruguay, Mexico, and the Philippines.
The alliance added that destination countries expected the countries sending workers abroad, including Indonesia, to show their commitment in protecting their workers, since talks over salary standards and protection of rights should normally be initiated by the country sending the workers abroad.
Wahyu said that the government should have fought for both the domestic law and the UN Convention at the same time.
He was referring to the House of Representatives’s decision last month to draft a bill to provide better placement and protection for Indonesian workers overseas.