As agreed in their 8th Congress in January 2023, FSPM declared the establishment of its general individual-membership union, SPM Pariwisata (Independent Tourism Workers’ Union), in the eight regions where it has members. The eight regions are Semarang, Yogyakarta, Jakarta, Lampung, Bandung, Surabaya, Labuan Bajo and Bali.
After losing up to 4,000 members across Indonesia in the last three years due to the pandemic and tourism crisis, FSPM explored new ways to organize more workers to rebuild their union strength.
FSPM decided to form SPM Pariwisata as a new structure to accommodate individual workers in the food services and hotel and tourism industry and meet their real need for a union to protect them in the worst situation. At the same time FSPM began crafting strategies for large-scale organizing. Even before this it was common for FSPM to receive inquiries from workers who have no union at their workplace asking if they can join FSPM. “But at that time we could not do much,” said Brother Galih Tri Panjalu, FSPM General Secretary.
SPM Pariwisata Yogyakarta became the FSPM first individual-based, general union to be registered with the Department of Manpower on May 2. This was followed by SPM Pariwisata Semarang on May 8 and SPM Pariwisata Jakarta on May 19.
Brother Galih mentioned that it is quite difficult for workers in Indonesia to form a trade union because of the bad image of unions created in the eyes of workers and employers. The regulation in Indonesian law that requires a minimum of 10 people to form a union in a workplace also sometimes becomes an obstacle.
“This is the best platform for us when our rights as workers are undermined,” said Brother Muhamad Ikhsan, a local chain restaurant worker, during the meeting to establish the new union on May 15. He added that workers should be the ones to defend their rights.
When explaining the importance of joining a union and struggling collectively, Brother Rival Yunaldi, FSPM Organizer, said: “It’s sometimes even difficult for a union to protect workers rights, let alone workers who are expected to defend their rights by themselves.”
At the founding meeting of the general tourism workers’ union, restaurant workers raised some issues on workers’ rights violations in the sector, such as the use of daily workers, part-time worker abuse and unpaid overtime. Brother Fafin Lubis, an Asisstant Manager in an international restaurant chain, explained his wish to create a “conducive, harmonious and prosperous” working environment by forming a union.
Organizing for the Future
Organizing SPM Pariwisata is a long term organizing effort. It is the first step that FSPM believes is important in providing a platform for workers who are interested in joining a union.
SPM Pariwisata in not limited to hotel and restaurant workers. FSPM is targeting more workers in other tourism businesses such as workers in tourism sites, tour guides, golf course workers and even food delivery riders. “We would like to organize to increase union membership from sectors that have not been properly organized all this time,” declared Brother Galih.
In terms of the development of organizing strategies, FSPM will conduct an education program for members of SPM Pariwisata to increase their capacity as union members. Members of SPM Pariwisata will be encouraged to then organize and form their own union at their workplaces as well.
“With the presence of individual-membership unions, it provides an opening for more and more workers to join the union. So, if something happens to workers, or they are faced with a difficult situation, they can at least get protection for their rights, welfare and job continuity,” observed Brother Galih.