Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network


June 26-29th Jakarta, Indonesia, Training With NGOs and Unions

Thirty-two Indonesian labor and community activists from 14 leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and trade unions participated in a 4-day training on workplace health and safety issues in Jakarta on June 26-29th. The goal of the training was to build the capacity of local groups to identify, evaluate and characterize occupational health and safety hazards and controls in Indonesian workplaces operated by both national and transnational corporations.

The training consisted of three days of classroom activities and a day-long field day evaluating hazards and controls at the 7,800-worker Pratama sports shoe factory in Tangerang, which is operated by a Korean corporation and produces 600,000 pairs of shoes each month for Nike Inc.

The eight NGOs represented at the training included LIPS, SISBIKUM, PMBB, ISJ, YBP, LBH Jakarta, Labor Education Center and APIK, which include labor rights, women's rights, human rights and legal service organizations. The six trade unions represented were PKU, SBJ, ABGTeks, SBSI, SPSI Reformasi and GSBI. The Asian Monitor Resource Center (AMRC) in Hong Kong also sent a staff member to attend the session.

The training was coordinated locally by the LIPS labor information center led by veteran labor activist Fauzi Abdullah. The international training team included Network members Garrett Brown, Diane Bush and Betty Szudy as well as MIT professor Dara O'Rourke and Australian occupational hygienist Melody Kemp (who has lived and worked in Indonesia for many years).

Funding for the health and safety training came from a grant from the MacArthur Foundation with in-kind support from the Labor Occupational Health Program (LOHP) at UC Berkeley (where Bush and Szudy work), and earlier assistance from the International Labor Rights Fund in Washington, DC.

Interactive, participatory techniques were used to cover topics such as risk mapping, industrial hygiene controls, basic toxicology, chemical safety, reproductive hazards, ergonomics, workplace stress, noise, safety issues like machine guarding, electrical hazards and fire evacuation, workers' legal rights, inspection techniques, as well as popular education techniques to pass along the information.

Training exercises over the first two days included a "hazard hunt" to practice using industrial hygiene equipment, learning about specific chemical hazards by deciphering "Material Safety Data Sheets" and by marking T-shirts with drawings of target organs (liver, lungs, kidneys, etc.) to show the short-term and long-term effects of chemical exposures.

During the plant walk-around on the this day, training participants interviewed workers and supervisors, monitored noise levels, evaluated ergonomic problems, checked electrical wiring, and used smoke tubes to evaluate ventilation systems. On the final day, small groups of participants created hazard or risk maps of the plant and developed written summaries of chemical, physical and social (sexual harassment, production pressures) of the plant.

All training materials were translated into Indonesian and English-speaking instructors had simultaneous translation for their presentation and activities. A written needs assessment and focus-group discussion with future participants preceded the design of the materials and the training.

The participating organizations themselves will decide how they wish to use this and future trainings. Among the options available are applying to become "independent monitors" in one or more of the various monitoring systems evaluating the labor practices of multinational corporations; becoming more informed and skilled "monitors of the monitors;" and/or better integrating health and safety issues into their ongoing national organizing and international solidarity campaigns.

This training was the first time a group of labor activists had been given access to a production plant operating for a US-based multinational for a training exercise. In their evaluations of the training, participants indicated that the hands-on practice in the plant site visit was the "best activity."

Fifteen managers from Pratama (the Korean contractor) and four other Jakarta-area plants producing for Nike took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the field-day exercises. They formed their own inspection group, in addition to three groups of NGO/union participants, which rotated through four departments of the huge shoe factory during the day.

Plans are already in motion for a follow-up training in Jakarta next spring. The schedule may involve a two-day refresher for the June participants followed by another four-day training with a new group of NGO and union representatives, including more participants from outside Jakarta. Some of the first training's participants will become peer trainers and instructors in the follow-up training.