Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

Research Student: Nawawi

Re-engaging with Formal Politics: Unions Elites and Workers’ Perspective on and the Challenges of Electoral Engagement of Unions in Indonesia’s Local and National Elections.

Photo of Nawawi

The growing democracy in recent Indonesia has opened wider political opportunity for trade unions to transform their movements from not just industrially, but also politically. Since the 2004 general elections, some major trade unions began to experiment with political contest for legislative seats at both local and national levels.

Apart from the poor performances in the last three consecutive elections, however, responses which emerged from among trade unions and labour activists, as well as workers, are varied. Some large trade unions tried actively to campaign against this move, while the others revealed with different responses, both in local and national levels.

In this research I put a greater weight to examine the challenges of electoral engagement of unions in Indonesia’s local and national elections, as well as discussing trade unions future role in engaging with formal politics. In order to comprehend this thoroughly, I proffered my research questions as follows:

  1. What are the key institutional structures that determine trade unions engagement in formal politics? 
  2. Why do union elites have different perspectives in engaging with formal politics? 
  3. Are the workers’ views in line with union elites’ perspectives? 
  4. Does the engagement with formal politics strengthen labour movement or vice versa? 
  5. What lesson can we learn from the last three consecutive elections in shaping trade unions’ capacity to engage effectively in the Indonesia’s future elections?

This research will be conducted using qualitative and quantitative approach. Data will be drawn through in-depth interviews to a number of informants using semi structure interview technique and survey to workers in selected research locations in Indonesia. 

Background

I finished my bachelor degree from the Department of Development Studies, Faculty of Economics, Diponegoro University, Indonesia (1994-1999). I got my Master’s Degree from Graduate School of Social and Humanities Sciences, Mie University, Japan (2007-2010).

I have been working as a government researcher at Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) since 2000. In 2010-2013, I was appointed as Head, Department for Labour Studies, Research Center for Population-LIPI. During this period, I have had responsibilities to manage some research projects both funded by the government of Indonesia and international agencies.

In 2011-2012, I was also selected as one of research team members for a national research project, titled “Revision of Law No.13 of Year 2013”.  Since then, I have been engaged in various research and consultancy activities, such as with the government institutions (both executive and legislative), universities, trade unions, workers organizations, private sector associations, as well as international agencies. 

What motivated me to undertake PhD study?

Pursuing my study until PhD is one of my biggest ambitions. I believe, this will give me wider opportunities to strength my research capabilities, to broaden my knowledge, to build research networking, as well as to support my career as a government researcher. 

What makes me passionate about my subject?

On a discussion with one of the prominent trade union leaders in Indonesia about two years ago, I was provoked by his statement that the only person who has better knowledge about the labour movement is a trade union activist - not a researcher, an academician, or an observer. Then, a year later, I realized that he did not mean to oppose every researcher’s view on trade union issues. I found that he quoted and responded positively on my research findings in one of his books. This experience has stimulated me to become more acquainted with the essential of research on labour movement issues in Indonesia. 

What are my plans once I have completed my PhD?

After completing my PhD, I am going back to my previous job to work as a government researcher at Research Center for Population, Indonesian Institute of Sciences. I also intend to pursue my studies to postdoctoral course and to re-write my PhD thesis in a published book, both in Bahasa Indonesia and English.

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