Rabu, 30 November 2022

CAWI: paper for International Human Rights Day commemoration Dec 10th, 2021: The Condition of Women Peasant-Workers in Large-scale Plantations of Indonesia

 Some Definitions of Terms:

Peasant-workers: Those who don’t have land, have their own means of work, depend on labor selling, working on land belonging to rich peasants or landlords.
Women Peasant-workers: Women who don’t have land, have their own means of work, depend on selling their labor to and working on land owned by rich peasants or landlords. 40% of peasant-workers on large plantation in Indonesia are women.
Large Plantations of Indonesia: Production of export-oriented of agricultural commodities, using funds from international banks or other international financial capital, implementing traditional and modern labor tools on a limited basis.
There is a big gap between conditions of industrial and mining workers in urban areas compare with agricultural workers in rural areas. Industrial workers in factories and mines who sell their labor to industrial capitalists in Indonesia are bound by various national labor regulations with wages and working conditions far above conditions of peasant-workers. Peasant workers in Indonesia "sell" their labor to the rich peasants and mainly landlords. The essence of such practice is LAND RENT which is paid with labor of peasant. National statistics show that up to now, agricultural laborers in rural areas only live on a national average real wage of 50,000 rupiah (below $4). It was happening for a long time until today. Likewise with the applicable laws and regulations. Peasant-workers in rural areas until now are very unfamiliar or even untouched by national legal regulations as well as the ILO Conventions which have been ratified by the state. The only related regulation that was ever issued in Indonesia was the Dutch Colonial regulation: Coeli Ordonantie 1888 which contained the legalization of physical torture for agricultural workers in East Sumatra, Poenaie Sanktie.
Peasant-workers in the history of the peasant movement and land reform in Indonesia have tried to be abolished through the enactment of the Basic Agrarian Law Number 5 of 1960 (Undang-Undang Pokok Agraria/UUPA 1960). One of its considerations is that land is not used as a means of exploitation and speculation for land rent and usury. This includes ensuring that everyone, as long as live in the countryside and work on agriculture, must own at least two hectares of land. The size of the land is to freely cultivated by one family without buying labor from another peasant. However, due to the failure of free land distribution based on the confiscation of land belonging to the landlords without compensation, peasant laborers, including women, not only failed to be eliminated, but their numbers continued to increase along with the birth of new monopoly of big plantations, especially from large plantations of palm oil.
There are approximately 80,000 villages in Indonesia. The majority of the population is peasants who majority of them are poor peasants and peasant-workers. Poor peasants are those who have limited land, but their land yields can only meet 25-50% of the basic necessities of life in rural areas. Therefore, they had to sell up to 75% of their labor to rich peasants or landlords in order to survive. The main sources of agricultural labor on big plantations in Indonesia are poor peasants and their families. Even though they owned their own land, they didn’t have the ability to produce freely without tying themselves to the usury of the rich peasants or landlords in the countryside. Since the Dutch colonial era built large monoculture plantations in Indonesia, poor peasants were the main source of labor brought in and used as contract laborers in Sumatra. In some islands and places in Indonesia where large plantations do not yet exist, peasant-workers work on land owned by individual on a seasonal basis (Casual Workers).
In large oil palm plantations owned by big landlords throughout Indonesia, the number of peasant-workers per 1,000 hectares of land is approximately 200 people. It means that average one peasant labor works on five hectares of land with simple tools owned or leased by the landlords. The peasant-workers in plantations consist of permanent and temporary laborers according to their working days and wage system. Permanent peasant-workers work full-time in a week of 5 to 6 working days or 25 working days in a month. Meanwhile, temporary peasant-workers work on a daily basis. It is generally based on work contracts which only has 12 to 20 working days per month or an average of 12 working days per month.
In large plantations, the determination of wages for peasant-workers in rural areas has based on the applicable labor laws, including the rules for leave and the rights of other peasant-workers. Although the laws and regulations in plantations are only used as a formal reference and mostly do not applicable to them. Permanent peasant-workers, those who live alone or with their families in a mess or a house provided by a plantation, apply a minimum wage equivalent to the minimum wage for industrial workers based on the provincial wages. They receive wages every month, if they don't come in, they get daily deductions in the amount of the minimum wage divided by 25 working days. Meanwhile, temporary peasant-workers, those who live in their own house in the village, receive daily wages in the amount of the minimum wage divided by 25 working days. However, because the average working day in a month is only 12 to 20 days, the monthly wage is far below the applicable provincial minimum wage.
The limited of available employments in the countryside made no choice for poor peasant but forcedly to sell labor in accordance with the amount and method of wage remuneration determined by the landlords. In fact, the very low wages paid by landlords are “much better” than the price of casual labor in the countryside or working for rich peasants as hoe laborers, planting or harvesting laborers. Therefore, long before the peasant-workers demanded wage improvements and confronted the landlords, he was already "besieged" by the reality of rural poverty. At the same time, they also faced problem of limited means of production, especially land owned by himself, limited employment opportunities and the low price of labor while the needs of " cash” to meet the life necessities is getting higher. Even in some large oil palm plantations, peasant-workers who want to work as permanent or contract workers are willing to give a certain amount of money to plantation trustees who help them get the job or to “persons of the plantation”, it could be foremen and those who have influence in labor recruitment.
In general, the choice of struggle is not demanding wages through open action but taking various forms of resistance such as leaving work without the foreman's permit, working carelessly, especially by natives, hiding crops, destroying work tools so that they can rest, choosing to harvest in places where the fruit is limited and so on. Such a thing is only possible for permanent workers to do. Meanwhile, temporary laborers complain about the limited working days, including being simply given a day off with reason that there are no available jobs to do. If they do not come to work, they sell labor on a casual basis or cultivate the land that has not been planted. The actions of hiding fertilizers and agricultural drugs to be sold or used by themselves are the forms of action that are most often carried out by these precarious agricultural workers.
Women peasant-workers work in such situations. Apart from facing general exploitation and oppression like men peasant-workers, they have to face various types of wage discrimination for the same work as men laborers. The difference in wages between women and men workers can reach 25-50%. In the patriarchal system of men who are very strong, generally women workers “take it for granted” this condition because work on plantations is considered as work to help husbands whose income is limited. There are many problems faced by women peasant-workers working on plantation lands of the big landlords besides the issue of wages and employment contracts being renewed according to the sole authority of the landlords. The rights of women workers such as menstruation leave, maternity leave and parental leave are special rights that are most commonly ignored and oppressed by landlords through their foremen. Women peasant-workers must continue to work even though they are menstruating, heavily pregnant and have just given birth. If not, the highest risk that must be faced is simply terminating the contract in addition to cutting wages. Women peasant-workers face various types of sexual crimes to the the form of rape by foremen and other influenced people of plantation. Lame sexual relations due to oppressive and exploiting production relations between the accomplices of the landlords and women laborers are very common. This kind of thing is still considered normal because there are so many cases that occur and there is a tendency to think that women peasants are the cause of the problem.
If we use the ILO Convention on Occupational Safety and Health as a basis for measuring occupational safety and health conditions in large plantations, we will see that condition of women laborers is at the lowest level of safety and security at work. Women peasant-workers who work as daily fertilizing and spraying workers work without sufficient personal protective equipment such as gloves and masks. The tools used to carry fertilizers are very traditional and provide a large workload, as well as the type of spraying equipment. Various types of grass poisons used are very dangerous to health, including impacts to women's reproductive health. In addition, women peasant-workers also have to face the threat of various types of dangerous animals such as cobras in oil palm plantations, limited places to eat and rest during the day that protected from the hot sun are a daily reality for Indonesian women peasant-workers.
The working standards for agricultural workers as a whole and women agricultural workers in particular are very far from the national standards that apply in manufacturing factories, especially when referring to the international standards of the ILO.
Women peasant-workers from the beginning have lost the right to organize and make collective bargaining agreements freely. Employment agreements are made individually and unilaterally by the landlords. Employment contracts for women agricultural laborers are extended from year to year, depending on the will of the landlords through their accomplices. No power was available against the practice for many years. Agricultural workers' organizations and women's agricultural workers' organizations in large plantations until now just have been more demanding normative demands with the highest demands such as: labor regulations available to industrial workers which has a big gap with the conditions of wages and working conditions as a whole even in the most modern large plantations in Indonesia.
Women peasant-workers generally join automatically in peasant worker organizations created by plantations company or are allowed to exist and operate by plantations. The leaders of these organizations are foremen or paid-person of plantation. Until now, there is just a very limited number of women peasant-workers who join the advanced women's peasant workers' organizations in rural areas that are really in favor of fundamentally changing the fate of women peasant workers. Organizing on large plantations by advanced women's or peasant organizations is generally semi-legal in nature, until it is really strong and gets broad support from workers in plantations. All things cannot be carried out legally and openly because it will certainly pose a very big risk to the women workers who are organized. The main priority in organizing is education about the basic rights of women peasant workers as human beings in accordance with the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and their rights as labor sellers based on various ILO labor Conventions. Using national labor law as a standard in large plantations, apart from being far from ILO standards, it is also far from the real life and capabilities of women a workers on plantations who are surrounded by harsh realities: the absence of their own means of production, especially land, limited employment opportunities, acute poverty, low wages for work in the countryside and a very strong and widespread patriarchal system in the countryside.
The last hope for women peasant workers to fundamentally improve their fate lies only in the struggle to destroy the landlords' monopoly on land. Democracy in rural areas cannot be promoted if inequality in land tenure exists and is maintained. Likewise, equality of ownership and wages between men and women must be realized. This is only possible if women peasant workers can be mobilized for genuine land reform, starting with the renewal of very low wages for peasant workers to the destruction of land monopolies, confiscation of land from landlords without compensation and free distribution of land to men and women peasant workers equally and equitably.

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SERUNI atau Serikat Perempuan Indonesia adalah organisasi perempuan yang memiliki cita-cita kesetaraan gender dan kehidupan lebih baik bagi perempuan Indonesia.

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