Women factory workers are being denied their maternal rights, a study by women worker’s rights group Perempuan Mahardhika has found.
Carried out in August to November, the study involved 773 women working in 45 factories at Kawasan Berikat Nusantara (KBN) industrial complex in Cakung, North Jakarta. These women work in factories that supply clothing for world-renowned brands, such as GAP, Express, Zara, and Basic.
A total of 118 women polled were or have been pregnant in the last three years, and half of them said they felt insecure about their jobs and their pregnancy. Their concerns range from harsh working conditions, fear of losing their jobs, to the lack of facilities available for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
“We heard so many stories from the workers when we interacted with them,” said Vivi Widyawati, Perempuan Mahardhika’s research coordinator. “These numbers back up their stories on what lives were like at the garment factories.”
The research team consisted of 16 women who used to be workers at garment factories so that they could communicate better with the respondents. The respondents were given questionnaires, followed by in-depth interviews to get the details of the workers’ experiences. Researcher Sapta Widi said his team had interviewed each respondent for up to five hours on at least two separate occasions.
The study found that some women had to conceal their pregnancies, fearing their contracts would not be renewed. Half of the women surveyed were on short-term contracts.
“When their contact is about to end, they fear losing their job, so they hide their pregnancy,” said Vivi.
When it comes to production, factory managements also do not take pregnancies into consideration.
“If the workers don’t meet their production targets, they are forced to work overtime without pay,” said Mutiara Ika Pratiwi, the national secretary of Perempuan Mahardhika. “No concessions are made for the pregnant women.”
For example, in 25 minutes, the average women workers have to finish 25 shirt pockets. The workload also consists of 40 collars in 25 minutes, 20 pairs of sleeves for 20 minutes or 300 embroidery logos per hour.
The women were not able to rest because there were no chairs, and toilets were hard to access. She said that the women workers in the helper section had to work for eight hours without sitting to clean the yarn and help tailors prepare many materials or equipment. Amidst this tough condition, seven of the women workers experienced miscarriage.
After giving birth, their job is further jeopardized.
“Sixteen out of the 86 respondents did not receive any paid maternity leave,” Ika said, adding nine of them were forced to sign new contracts while the remaining seven lost their jobs.
Based on the study’s results, Perempuan Mahardhika gave a series of recommendations for the government, companies and labor unions. Ika said the organization hoped to hold a social dialog with all the stakeholders early next year.
Jumisih, the Chair of Federasi Buruh Lintas Pabrik (FBLP), said the government needed to be more active in enforcing the existing law.
“The 2003 Employment Law is actually very comprehensive, but we need strict and regular supervision by the Manpower Ministry,” said Jumisih.
Last May, a documentary film titled Angka Jadi Suara, exposed the sexual breakdown that often afflicted women workers in the area. In the doco, at least 25 women workers from 15 factories at KBN Cakung claimed to have been sexually harassed.
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