Home » ‘Works 14 Hours a Day, Wages are Circumcised, No Holidays’ – Indonesian Apprentice Students Allegedly Being Blackmailed Into ‘Laborers’ in Japan
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‘Works 14 Hours a Day, Wages are Circumcised, No Holidays’ – Indonesian Apprentice Students Allegedly Being Blackmailed Into ‘Laborers’ in Japan

The determination of two suspects in the case of alleged trafficking in persons (TPPO) against students at a polytechnic in West Sumatra can be a momentum to evaluate and improve the apprenticeship process abroad which is ‘prone to slavery’, say labor activists.

General Chairperson of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union (SBMI) Hariyanto said the case of suspected TIP of apprentice students in West Sumatra (West Sumatra) was “not the first to happen” in Indonesia.

“Cases with this mode and pattern have occurred a lot, not only in W Sumatra, but also in Malang, Yogyakarta and other areas,” Hariyanto told BBC News Indonesia, Thursday (29/06).

Hariyanto said that allegations of TIP practices in apprenticeship arose partly due to offers of large salaries from abroad amid the difficulty of finding work within the country.

“So many are tempted to do internships even though it is a non-procedural process,” he said.

Weak supervision is also mentioned as another factor.

So far, the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Agency (Bareskrim) has named the two former polytechnic directors in Payakumbuh as TIP suspects, last Tuesday (27/06).

They allegedly made students “as laborers in Japan during internships”.

Meanwhile, Director of the Payakumbuh State Agricultural Polytechnic John Nefri said the student internship process in Japan had gone through official procedures and was not illegal.

Head of the W Sumatra Manpower and Transmigration Service, Nizam Ul Muluk, said that the allegations of TIP and the process of student internships in Japan were not within the authority of his agency.

“For supervision, I cannot supervise because it is outside the labor procedures. Maybe someone is playing the private sector or immigration, right?

‘Working 14 hours a day, no days off’

Bareskrim Polri has named two former directors of a polytechnic in W Sumatra as suspects in the alleged TIP case by sending student interns to Japan.

They are G, director of the polytechnic for the 2013-2018 period, and EH, director for the 2018-2022 period.

“During the one year apprenticeship, the victim did not work like an apprentice, but worked like a laborer,” said Bareskrim Director General Crimes (Dirtipidum) Brigadier General Djuhandani Rahardjo Puro at the National Police Headquarters, Jakarta, Tuesday (27/06).

This TIP practice is alleged to have been going on since 2012.

The police charged the suspects with Article 4 and Article 11 of Law Number 21 of 2007 concerning the Eradication of TIP with a maximum prison sentence of 15 years and a maximum fine of Rp. 600 million.

Djuhandani explained, the students worked for 14 hours every day, without any days off, and were only given a maximum of 15 minutes to eat.

Each student is paid around IDR 5 million per month, but added Djuhandani, this salary is then given IDR 2 million per month to the campus as a contribution fund.

Djuhandani said the allegations of TIP were discovered when two student victims, namely ZA and FY, reported their alleged “work as laborers” to the Indonesian Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.

Apart from these two people, there were nine other students who were also victims.

The students, said Djuhandani, departed using student visas for one year. Then, the Japanese company extended it to a work visa for six months.

The victims then reported this to their campus and asked to be sent home.

However, the alleged perpetrator threatened the student, “if the cooperation between the polytechnic and the Japanese company is broken, then the victim will drop out (DO),” he said.

From the results of the investigation, Djuhandani explained, the polytechnic did not have permission to process apprenticeships abroad, did not have an apprenticeship curriculum abroad, and also collaborated with Japanese companies without the Indonesian Embassy knowing about it.

Apart from benefiting from contributions from apprentice students, said Djuhandi, polytechnics also benefited, namely, their two study programs received accreditation from B to A.

The police are continuing to investigate the case to see whether other parties are involved.

What did the polytechnic say?
Director of the Payakumbuh State Agricultural Polytechnic John Nefri admitted that he was aware of the police investigation into alleged TIP on his campus, and said that the polytechnic respected the ongoing legal process.

John said that this case occurred approximately in 2020-2021 when he was not yet the director of the polytechnic.

“If I’m not mistaken, it was 2020-2021 during Covid-19. I wasn’t a director at that time, so I didn’t know exactly,” said John as quoted by Kompas.com.

John said that now the apprenticeship program to Japan had been stopped since he took office.

However, he added that the apprenticeship program had gone through official procedures and selection, so it was not yet known why the program was included in the alleged TIP.

“So the internship is official. There is a selection on campus, it’s not illegal… This is what we are investigating internally. But we respect the ongoing legal process within the police,” said John.

Not the first, ‘the gap between big salaries and the difficulty of finding work’

SBMI Chairman Hariyanto said the alleged TIP case of students in West Sumatra was not the first apprenticeship case to have occurred in Indonesia.

“Cases with this mode and pattern have occurred a lot, not only in W Sumatra, but also in Malang, Yogyakarta and other areas,” said Hariyanto.

According to Hariyanto, allegations of TIP practices in apprenticeships arose partly due to the large demand from the public to work abroad, with the lure of large salaries.

In addition, he said, many students who have graduated have difficulty finding jobs in the country.

“There is a gap between the lure of large salaries abroad and the difficulty in finding work in the country, so many are tempted to do internships even though it is a non-procedural process,” said Hariyanto.

In the same vein, Denny Cahyadi, who used to work as an apprentice in Japan, said that the reason for going overseas was the difficulty in finding work in the country.

“I see many students who have graduated but find it difficult to find work. So think about finding a way out with various kinds of searches.

“It’s a dilemma, but actually it’s just life demands,” said the man who worked in metal plate management while in Japan to journalist Halbert Chaniago, reporting for BBC News Indonesia from the city of Padang.

Denny, who now lives in Padang, said that through the process of formally recruiting apprentices through the labor office, and undergoing training at a job training institute (LPK).

“After passing the process and getting all the permits, in Japan we are given another month’s training. Then work. There are even those in Japan who do not pass medical check-ups. The process is strict but the facilities are very good,” said Denny.

‘MOM must be held accountable’

In addition, Hariyanto from SBMI also questioned the monitoring mechanism carried out by the Ministry of Manpower (Kemenaker) as the leading sector in the process of placing apprentices abroad, such as Japan.

“The Ministry of Manpower as the leading sector must be responsible and its extension is the local Manpower Office,” said Hariyanto.

“How is the supervision at the polytechnic so that they [the polytechnic] can dispatch? If this is opened, it will widen and find the threads of the problem,” said Hariyanto.

Hariyanto said the development process could be done in several ways. The first is to find out whether the polytechnic has cooperation with the local Manpower Office in sending students to do internships abroad.

“That can be seen from whether there is a letter of application or application from the polytechnic to the Manpower Office regarding apprenticeship. If there is none, it means it is illegal,” said Hariyanto.

“Then, if the polytechnic is given placement authority, it is necessary to ask who gave the permit, what is the pattern of cooperation, what is the supervisory mechanism, what is the MoU, who is supervising this polytechnic, how come an arrest occurs? This has to be revealed,” he said.

Second, are there any certificates from other government institutions, such as from the neighborhood association (RT) to the kelurahan related to the apprenticeship activity.

“This will break down the gaps in the problem to those who are responsible. This is also the right moment to dismantle, evaluate and improve the practice of apprenticeship abroad which is prone to irregularities and slavery,” he said.

For this reason, Hariyanto hopes that the Ministry of Manpower will immediately intervene to investigate what happened at the polytechnic and also evaluate the process of apprenticeship abroad in order to prevent similar practices from recurring.

West Sumatra Manpower Office, ‘maybe someone is playing private party or immigration’

When confirmed, the Head of the West Sumatra Manpower Office, Nizam Ul Muluk emphasized that the student apprenticeship program to Japan was not related to the authority of the institution.

“If students are not workers, it’s studies. The study visa has nothing to do with the Manpower Office.”

“Once a polytechnic in Padang asked me for a recommendation for a student internship in Europe, I didn’t give it because it doesn’t exist in the Labor Law, so student internships are not included in the law,” Nizam told journalist Halbert Chaniago.

Seeing what happened in this case, Nizam said, maybe there were other parties involved in passing the students so they could go to Japan.

“For that supervision, I cannot supervise it because it is outside the labor procedure. Maybe there are those who play private parties or immigration, it could be,” said Nizam.

In the same vein, Head of West Sumatra BP2MI Bayu Aryadhi said apprenticeship at the polytechnic was not within the realm of BP2MI’s authority.

“So the apprenticeship is under the Ministry of Manpower, in accordance with applicable regulations. This means that all this time the apprenticeship was under the employment service. For us, BP2MI, it is only for those who work abroad, “said Bayu.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology (Kemendikbudristek) has not provided any response regarding the alleged TIP that occurred at the polytechnic until this news was published.

Ministry of Education and Culture, ‘it is best if the overseas apprenticeship program is stopped first’

However, in a previous statement, related to allegations of TIP that befell students at the polytechnic, Investigation Inspector Fuad Wiyono from the Inspectorate General of the Ministry of Education and Culture said that the Ministry of Education and Culture needed to make regulations regarding student apprenticeships abroad.

Quoting from the website of the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture, Fuad said, before the regulation was in place, “it would be best if the overseas apprenticeship program was stopped first because the legal umbrella is only regulated through Permenaker Number 8 of 2008 concerning Procedures for Licensing and Organizing Apprenticeships Abroad”.

In the same vein, the Director of Transnational Terrorism Crimes at the Attorney General’s Office, Idianto, stated that he supports the temporary suspension of the apprenticeship program if there are no strong regulations yet. Moreover, there are many cases of TIP that are not touched by the law because of ignorance, intervention from other parties, and pressure.

“In the future, efforts will be made to prosecute companies from apprenticeship programs to be prosecuted. Bearing in mind, in previous cases the main suspects were mostly recruiters. This is necessary in order to get to the bottom of the problem,” said Idianto, as quoted from the website of the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture.

Apart from the Payakumbuh Agricultural Polytechnic, the alleged TIP also allegedly affected vocational high school (SMK) students in Depok who were participants in the Korean industrial training program.

SBMI has at least received reports of more than 30 people who are victims of non-procedural job vacancies abroad throughout 2023.

Source : BBC