Life In The FTZ

Life In The FTZ

North west Jakarta. The FTZ port. FTZ stands for Free Trade Zone. A blocked off area, where clothes, commodities and other items are assembled, repackaged or reshipped without – in theory – touching Indonesian soil. A state within a state, where foreign companies can operate without the restrictions of the workers’ unions and where the laws of Indonesia are pretty much unenforceable.

Life in the FTZ is tough. Often workers face 16-18 hour days earning less than 5$US a day. The work is hard, back breaking and safety is of little concern to the employers. The workers often sleep where they work, because it costs too much to return to their families, often miles away. Instead they’ll go home once a week or even a fortnight. There are almost 50.000 people employed at this one FTZ in north Jakarta.

We had to smuggle our way in. There’s no open invitation from the Indonesian government. They’d rather keep these areas out of sight from International unions, which they combat with maximum intensity. However in recent years the workers have claimed numerous rights, through solidarity campaigns supported by overseas organisations, and by massive strikes, forcing the foreign companies to introduce new and humane ethics in their approach to maximise profit.

I Made Krana is carrying a 25kg cement bag. He can end up carrying up to 500 bags of these every day. It’s steady work. His team of 7 men fill up a vessel in 2 days. Once it’s done another one awaits. There’s no end in sight. Last year, a massive revolt on this same port, led by Krana and many of his fellow workers, led to the doubling of the teams. It’s a beginning.

Remember to celebrate your May Day, 1st of May every year. All workers have a right to work under decent conditions and be treated with respect.

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