Seminar: Trade Union Movement and Democracy in Indonesia


About the Seminar

The seminar will discuss the involvement of the Indonesian trade union movement in two different, yet closely related, events in 2010 and 2014, and its future trajectory.

The first was the movement’s involvement in the 2010 social security campaign, which has encouraged the emergence of a new kind of trade union movement in an unprecedented way, manifesting itself in the Action Committee for Social Security Reform (Komite Aksi Jaminan Sosial, KAJS), which is a national alliance of unions pushing for the reforms of the universal social security system.

The second event was its involvement in the electoral politics through legislative and presidential elections in 2014, as well as the opportunities and challenges that accompany it. The presentation will show that in its efforts to become an effective political power, the Indonesian trade union movement has been quite successful in the social security campaign, whereas it generally has not been so successful in its electoral politics experimentation. There was an overestimation of their strength coming on the back of their previous success in the social security campaign. Moreover, the over-dominance of leaders and the sectorial ego has also contributed to the failure.

These two events, nevertheless, show the importance of societal power and the potential of the trade union movement in garnering alternative class political power in Indonesia. Learning from the 2014 experience, the discussion will also touch upon the prognosis of the involvement of the trade unions in the 2019 presidential election.

About the Speaker

Surya Tjandra is public attorney and expert on Indonesian trade unions and labour issues. He is a labour activist-turned academic affiliated with the Jakarta-based organization, the Trade Union Rights Centre, and lecturer on Labour Law at Atma Jaya Catholic University, Jakarta.

Dr Tjandra completed his PhD on “Labour Law and Development in Indonesia” at Van Vollenhoven Institute, Leiden University, the Netherlands, in 2016. He has published extensively on these issues, including “Kompilasi Putusan Pengadilan Hubungan Industrial Terseleksi: 2006-2007” (2008), which was the first compilation of the newly established Industrial Relations Courts’ decisions in Indonesia, and “Makin Terang Bagi Kami: Belajar Hukum Perburuhan” (2006), which provides an alternative socio-legal approach on the labour law studies in Indonesia.

In 2015, Dr Tjandra became one of the top 8 candidates to lead the Corruption Eradication Commission, the anti-graft agency of Indonesia.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 5 July 2017.


Jul 06 2017


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2