October 4, 2023
JAKARTA – The Constitutional Court (MK) on Monday rejected petitions to revoke President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s controversial government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) on job creation, amid mounting protests from labor unions.
The Perppu in question was signed by Jokowi in December 2022 to resuscitate the Job Creation Law, which was declared “conditionally unconstitutional” by the MK in 2021 because it used the unrecognized omnibus method to revise multiple laws at once and was deliberated with minimal public participation. Despite mounting accusations of attempts to circumvent the 2021 MK ruling regarding the issue, the House of Representatives passed the Perppu into law in March of this year, effectively making it permanent legislation.
Dozens of labor unions and civil society groups including the Indonesia Welfare Labor Confederations (KSBSI), Indonesia Farmers Union (SPI) and the National Labor Union Federation, have filed at least five separate petitions to the MK to challenge the Perppu.
The plaintiffs generally argued in their petitions that the issuance of the Perppu was rushed and lacked meaningful participation from the public, saying that there was no urgency to publish such an “emergency regulation” by the President. They also said that its drafting process reflected the “executive-heavy” and “authoritarian” styles of the legislation process during the New Order era.
The court on Monday held that the President has the right to interpret the degree of emergency that warranted the issuance of a Perppu and it was up to the House to determine if the President has a sound reason for lawmakers to pass the Perppu into law.
In the ruling, the bench also said that the quick deliberation process of the Perppu and its passing into law was justifiable as policymakers sought to mitigate a looming global economic slowdown following the COVID-19 pandemic, growing inflation and the war in the Ukraine that could potentially affect the country’s economy.
Monday’s ruling took place amid mounting protests from labor unions across the country. Thousands of workers staged a protest against the jobs law on Monday around the Patung Kuda traffic circle in Central Jakarta.
Hundreds of people also staged a rally in Surabaya, East Java, to protest the controversial Perppu.
Labor unions and civil society groups have long feared that certain provisions in the jobs law could reduce workers’ incomes as the law eliminated aspects of job security and wage guarantees, as well as social security for workers.
They also deemed the law’s provisions on minimum wage, severance pay and outsourcing as not favorable to workers’ interests.
The vote on Monday was 5-to-4, with two president appointees, deputy chief justice Saldi Isra and justice Enny Nurbaningsih, joining House appointee Wahiduddin Adams and Supreme Court appointee Suhartoyo in dissent.
The five-justice majority that rejected the petitions and instead upheld Jokowi’s emergency policy consisted of Anwar Usman, a Supreme Court appointee who is also Jokowi’s brother-in-law, Supreme Court appointee Manahan Sitompul, House appointees Arief Hidayat and Guntur Hamzah and President appointee Daniel Yusmic Foekh.
The House and the government have opposed the petitions in their arguments presented before the court as policymakers.
The 5-4 split on Monday also reflected the way the bench was divided when they declared the previous jobs law unconstitutional in 2021 following a judicial review from labor groups, with the exception of Guntur, who was appointed by the House as a justice in September of last year.
Guntur did not handle the case in 2021, it was instead his predecessor Aswanto, a two-time House appointee, who oversaw the case.
Aswanto, along with Saldi, Enny, Wahiduddin and Suhartoyo made up the five-justice majority that ruled the jobs law “conditionally unconstitutional” in 2021.
Aswanto was controversially dismissed by the House last year before his tenure ended in 2029 even though prevailing laws do not grant lawmakers the authority to remove a justice. Lawmakers at the time cited his “disappointing performance” and lack of commitment to the House as a reason for removing Aswanto. But critics said Aswanto’s removal was politically motivated, particularly given his vote, which contributed to the revocation of the jobs law in 2021.