(5) Various Models of “Modern Slavery”: from Outsourcing-Contract Working System to the Cruelest Type of Unpaid Work

This morning I cried while I was reading Alex Tizon’s on the bus with a tired bus conductor who was starring at no one. My hands were shaking and I felt so broken. Alex’s story told about his family’s slave, Eudocia Tomas Pulido or called as Lola, who had worked without paid for more than 65 years. I felt some strange pain in my heart and somehow I felt like I can relate to Lola’s feeling whenever she was missed her family or when was crying while her boss yelled at her — even though I think her deep sorrow was far tougher and only her can felt and no one can. A deep respect and love to you, Lola. At the bus, I imagined how if I live a life like Lola’s life. What came to my mind was only strange thoughts and feelings. The bus ran so slow because of the Jakarta’s deathly traffic and I was standing like a weirdo: looked down tried to wipe my own tears and then looked blankly through the bus window.

Reading enslavement stories is always hard for me — I wish I have a time machine and have an ability to abolish such bad condition. However, eventhough slavery was about to diminish from human civilisation, I think until now we can still find slavery in new various models/forms. Some working systems such as outsourcing-contract working system (in factory workers context) is identified by many trade unions in Indonesia as a new form of slavery or “modern slavery”. Under that working system, many factory workers work their ass off to reach their companies targets –day and night — and often without overtime wage, alongside with low wages they earn each month, no job guarantee or security, no career life, and so on.[1] Therefore, they considered outsourcing- contract working system as a “modern slavery”.

Moreover, this is not the only model, I think. Another kind of “modern slavery” model can be seen at the working system of domestic workers. In Indonesia’s context, many people treats the domestic workers not as a worker but rather only as “an assistant”. As the consequences, people often treats the domestic workers without considering their rights as a worker. Many families employ a worker or more in their home and some of them, employ the worker for years without giving an option to them to choose whether they want to stay at that job or pursue another chance. I instantly remember this kind of case when was reading the story about Lola-I mentioned above. I have seen this kind of cases in many families in Bandung where I spent almost 18 years my life there. I feel so guilty now remembering how lot of my friends’s family employed domestic workers at their home for more than 10 years while the domestic workers were working since they only teenager. I feel bad yes, very bad.

Beside that, I also see — and even I also experienced it myself — a new kind of “slavery” in one of my work experience, which is unpaid work and even without some kind of appreciation. This was happen last year when I was organising an international event (not in my official workplace): I was worked without paid and ironically, without “thank you” or appreciation in any other kind! I was sweat myself and also teared myself at that time but I only got tired and underappreciated (until now). I see that this kind of work experience also happen to many of us especially who work in the “creative industry” but with slightly different condition: work day and night, but only paid with “thank you” without some decent payment or wages.[2] Now, this kind of “new style of slavery” or “modern slavery” is even worsen by internship working system which employed some undergraduate or school students in corporations with same work load as regular employees but without decent wages. This trend has been rising recently especially in big corporations in the name of efficiency and for the sake of “student’s work experience”.

— -

I saw “Gatot Subroto LIPI” shelter from the window and it was an end of my journey on the bus. I walked slowly while I was doing inhale and exhale to calm myself. What a day!

— -

-Fathimah Fildzah Izzati-

[1]See it in my book, Politik Serikat Buruh dan Kaum Precariat: Pengalaman Tangerang dan Kawarang, Depok: Departemen Ilmu Politik FISIP UI dan PUSKAPOL FISIP UI, 2014.

[2]I got this information from the union I join in, Serikat SINDIKASI.

Like what you read? Give Fathimah Fildzah Izzati a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.