Demonstrators from Tangerang, West Java, on October 6, 2020, rejected the bill (Source: Instagram screengrab).

Thousands of Indonesian workers protested Tuesday against a controversial new law which critics fear will favour investors at the expense of labour rights and the environment.

Labour activists and environmentalists have formed an unlikely alliance against the legislation, which was passed in parliament late Monday after being promoted by the government as key to attracting investment.

Human rights group Amnesty International called it “catastrophic” for workers, saying it would harm livelihoods and job security.

Phelim Kine, an official with the Mighty Earth environmental group, said it would legitimise “uncontrolled deforestation”.

The government hopes the bill — which aims to cut red tape by amending dozens of existing laws covering taxation, labour and environment regulations — will attract foreign investment.

Although enforcement is sometimes patchy, Indonesia has tough labour laws — particularly involving foreign companies.

Protesters rallied in the capital and several other major centres across the archipelago.

“I will be (among) the last batch in my company that could have permanent-worker status,” said protester Basiranat a rally in Tangerang, just outside the capital.

Government minister Airlangga Hartarto rejected the criticism.

“We needed a simplification, synchronization and to cut red tape,” he said.

Indonesia is facing a looming recession, with the economy shrinking 5.32 percent in the second quarter this year due to the coronavirus.

More than 11,000 people have died so far, with at least 300,000 infected.


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