Fahmi Panimbang‬’s Year in Reflection

In our latest Year in Reflection, we invited Fahmi Panimbang from Solidar Suisse, Asia.

In 2022, which workers’ struggle in Asia would you like to highlight?

I would like to highlight the struggles by Indonesia’s Coalition of Sovereign Migrants or KBMB to expose forced labour and inhumane conditions of detained Indonesian migrant workers in East Malaysia’s palm oil plantations. We need collective action to tackle this issue. 

This is long overdue. The exploitation has been decades in the making, but few are paying attention. KBMB is reviving the legacy of the past attempts to address this issue. More actions and collaboration of civic groups in Asia are very much needed to change the fate of migrant exploitation.

What is one labor issue that you have worked on this year?

I’ve been researching new ways of labour organising by communities of informal workers such as platform workers, but also migrant workers who are largely excluded from and not represented by labour unions. 

My focus is to develop alternative organising strategies for these marginalised groups of workers. It’s not a new topic but it’s important to continue the critiques against established labour unions that maintain a narrow definition of labour movements. 

My recent finding shows how successful organising methods by platform workers hold important lessons for the established labour unions about solidarity building.

What is one book you want to recommend?

I have to mention two books since they are related: Labour Regimes and Global Production edited by Elena Baglioni, Liam Campling, Neil M. Coe, Adrian Smith, and Value Chains: The New Economic Imperialism by Intan Suwandi, which I have reviewed.

They are important analytical tools with which we can best understand the changing organisation of work in globalised production, providing a better understanding of the global economic system and how labour movements should envision a change.

What should we be paying attention in 2023?

For the first time in decades of Indonesian history, Partai Buruh (Labour Party), a political party with the backing of the largest labour unions has been formed and is eligible to contest in the five-yearly general election, to be held in February 2024. 

The year 2023 will be interesting to witness this new development. Although not all the civic and labour groups support it due to different views, I think it is still a major breakthrough in exploring new experiments. There will be learnings of Realpolitik or practical politics, both good and evil, not only for Indonesian labour movement, but also for the labour movements in the region.