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Indonesian parliamentary committee finishes deliberating contentious jobs bill

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia moved a step closer to passing President Joko Widodo’s contentious “Job Creation” bill after parliament’s legislation committee and government ministers on Saturday approved the latest version for a vote next week.

FILE PHOTO: Indonesia's President Joko Widodo gestures during an interview with Reuters in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 3, 2017. REUTERS/Beawiharta/File Photo

A coalition of fifteen activist groups, including several trade unions, condemned the move in a statement on Sunday, accusing the government and parliamentarians of completing the deliberations in secret during an unusual hearing late at night over a weekend.

The coalition called on all workers to join their planned national strike on Oct. 6 to 8 to protest the bill, which organisers had said would involve 5 million workers.

The so-called “omnibus” bill, aimed at revising over 70 existing laws in a single vote, is the president’s flagship measure to speed up the pace of economic reform and improve the country’s investment climate.

Global investors have been watching closely to see if the bill gets watered down in parliamentary debates, as Southeast Asia’s largest economy tries to compete for manufacturing investment relocating from China.

In a hearing on Saturday, which ended a few hours before midnight, representatives from seven out of nine factions in the legislation committee approved the bill to be brought to a parliamentary vote, while two factions rejected.

Several ministers led by chief economic minister Airlangga Hartarto also approved the final version of the bill, which contained some changes to the government’s original proposal, such as a different scheme for a cut in mandatory severance benefits.

“This bill will support de-bureaucratisation and efficiency,” Airlangga said in the televised hearing.

Workers opposing the bill argued the legislation would be a “red carpet for investors, widening the power of the oligarchy” by not only hurting labour protection, but also taking away lands from farmers and indigenious communities, according to the coalition’s statement.

Greenpeace campaigner Arie Rompas, addressing a separate news briefing on Sunday, said his group was reviewing legal actions it could take if parliament passes the bill into law. Green groups have criticised the bill’s provisions that relax environmental study requirements for investors, which they said could lead to ecological disasters.

Government officials have insisted the bill would not hurt labour protection nor the environment and that it is necessary to attract investment and create jobs.

Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo and Maikel Jefriando; Editing by Christina Fincher & Shri Navaratnam

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