Sri Purna Widari: Labor Activist

Sri Purna Widari was born in Denpasar. From an early age, her parents prioritized her education. She studied English literature at Udayana University’s extension program, graduating in 2007. Sri won the Bali Tourism Ambassador award in 2006. Sri has worked as a sales executive, translator and interpreter, freelance real estate broker, recruiter in an employment agency and as a secretary in an adventure company, but the issue that she always has been most passionate about are economic equality and social justice. Her role as a mediator has exposed her to many labor issues that receive little public attention. Sri now juggles between making a name for herself in community empowerment issues and working as a freelance headhunter at Bali Top Jobs.


What is Bali Top Job all about?

Bali Top Job is an online job portal and Facebook community that helps connect job seekers with human resource departments and business owners in the tourism industry. Our group has been effective in helping both employees and employers land their dream jobs and join a winning team. Recently we expanded our role into building a support system for both parties by providing a safe place for them to share their opinions.


What are the work conditions like for daily workers in Bali?

A typical daily worker in Indonesia is employed on an 8-hour basis but works less than 21 days a month. He or she is called only when needed. They are a critical part of the workforce in hotels, villas and restaurants in the high season. This kind of work also means occasional, irregular employment. Many have worked for years with similar responsibilities given to permanent staff, yet they do not receive paid sick leave, annual leave or maternity leave. They are also are not entitled to health insurance, social security, severance pay, mandated religious allowance, etc. Employers can end employment without notice unless notice is required by a prior agreement in an employment contract.


Do daily workers sign contracts?

When daily workers work in construction for a short period of time, they often do not sign a written agreement. However, if they work in a hotel, villa or restaurant, they will likely sign one.


What violations experienced by daily workers have been reported to you?

Many daily workers are employed 30 days within 3 consecutive months and are even given a fixed term contract for 3 years when they should be only working 20 days a month. Many daily workers only receive the regional UMK (Minimum Monthly Wage) when they are in fact entitled to additional hourly pay as compensation for employment insecurity and lack of paid leave. This addition to their hourly pay rate is a substitute for perks that only permanent staff get. Many also report that their employers demand that they work 9-12 hour days without any overtime pay.


Why don’t daily workers have more rights in Bali?

Hotel department managers have told me that the need for jobs is still far greater than available vacancies, which makes daily workers dispensable. Some permanent workers themselves believe that starting as a daily worker is a good career move that fresh graduates or new workers need to prove their competence before they are hired as a permanent staff.  Some company owners admitted that the main purpose for using daily workers is to reduce steep costs of benefits mandated to permanent staff by manpower regulations. Since the hospitality industry in Bali is a cutthroat business and hotels in Bali are oversupplied with workers, they cannot afford to give equal perks to daily workers. On the other hand, there are many cases in which a daily worker’s skills, competence and job performance are considered below standard and yet they still want quick promotions.


What challenges do daily workers face?

Many workers have a low level of education, which makes them eligible for only low skilled jobs. With the oversupply of hotels in Bali, the competition for jobs has become intense. Local workers have to compete with immigrants who sometimes accept lower wages, foreigners who work illegally and candidates who get a job due to nepotism. It has also been reported that there has been a decrease in service charges, which means that many permanent staff in hotels do not want to share their tips with long-term daily workers. They also have to compete with some full time staff with stagnant or declining work performance but who cannot be easily fired by companies, even if they are proven incompetent.


Is Bali’s monthly minimum wage of Rp1.9 million enough to live on?

It depends. Some family breadwinners only get the Rp1,9 million without tips. But some receive even less than that. Some stay in a small rented room with 3-4 other people while paying for their motorbike on credit and sending a portion of their income to their elderly parents in their village, so of course that amount is too low to live on. However, permanent staff that work in hotels, villas and restaurants receive service charge, lunch and tips every month over and above their wages. Many who work in spas doing massage, hairdressing, manicures and pedicures receive a 5% – 10% commission. Their lower salary is expected to translate into a higher drive and motivation to sell. In these cases the amount they receive is not always fixed. Another cushioning factor is that there are many Balinese who still live with their parents. This arrangement reduces their living costs and the need to be concerned about paying their rent. Many Balinese males also receive inheritances.


What can daily workers do if their employer breaks labor laws?

Workers can report directly to the manpower department or ask for legal assistance to LBH Bali, which is Bali’s Legal Aid Foundation. Unfortunately, many are reluctant to report violations. They fear that their grievances will be ignored or that they will lose their case because the employer will pay a bribe and get away with it. Many are not members of a worker’s union and therefore cannot always expect legal assistance and protection.


Can you give some advice for those starting out in Bali’s tourism industry?

First, improve your English. Most job candidates studied at school with local teachers who use poor grammar and don’t speak English very well. Be aware of your rights and regulations before signing a contract. Network among your friends instead of relying on traditional approaches to finding a job. I have found that sending out resumes does not work nearly as well in landing a job than attending an event, mingling and talking directly and confidently with decision makers. Finally, travel to learn how it feels to be a tourist. Don’t limit yourself by only visiting developed countries but also visit less developed ones to see how it feels being ripped off only because you are a tourist. This way you learn compassion towards travelers who visit Bali.


What is the best way to contact you?


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