|Home > South-East Asia >> Indonesia|
Compilation of reports on May Day demonstrations in Indonesia
Detik.com/Jakarta Post/Tempo Interactive - May 1-3, 2008
Mariani Dewi, Jakarta – Contract work and outsourcing systems remain relevant for businesses needing to adapt to Indonesia's volatile market, an employer association and a lawmaker said in response to demands by May Day protesters.
House of Representatives member Bomer Pasaribu said Friday revoking Labor Law No. 13/2003 based on a one-sided demand would not solve current labor law problems. Some clauses in the legislation have been controversial, especially those dealing with contract work and delegated work (outsourcing).
"It's easy to say 'ban outsourcing' or 'up the pay', but what will happen afterward? What are the impacts on businesses? There needs to be another system that brings compromise to the table," Bomer said.
Contract work and outsourcing do not contravene the Constitution and would benefit both employers and employees if carried out properly, said deputy chairman of the Association of Indonesian Employers (Apindo) Hasanuddin Rachman.
The comments by Bomer and Hasanuddin were made in response to demands for contract and outsourcing systems to be revoked, as expressed during nationwide rallies on World Labor Day on Thursday.
"There are jobs that are permanent, for which the law says we cannot hire contract workers. But some jobs arise out of temporary situations and require only temporary workers," Hasanuddin said.
"Say someone is on maternity leave; we cannot hire a permanent worker to fill the job. Even contract workers know their work is not permanent."
He said the regulation on contract work and outsourcing had often been misapplied in practice. Examples of misuse included using contract workers for jobs of a permanent nature and outsourcing internal jobs.
He called on the government to put more effort into enforcing and promoting labor laws.
"They should audit companies and punish those that break the law. But do not blame all businesspeople for the wrongdoings of a few companies," he said. "The government should also deploy more labor inspectors and make sure workers are familiar with the law so they know their entitlements."
Bomer has suggested the implementation of a new workplace insurance system that would require companies to pool funds from periodical membership payments and use them for contingencies, including as compensation for dismissed workers.
"(Under the scheme) many companies would share the payment of social security. The workers would get the protection they need and the businesses would not be overburdened," he said.
The scheme is in line with the International Labor Organization's convention and has been implemented in many Scandinavian and South American countries.
Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta - May 1, 2008 was a national holiday not for working Indonesians, but for Christians, in the observance of the day of Ascension of Jesus Christ.
Despite its long avoidance of declaring International Labor Day a public holiday here, the government did not bar workers from celebrating on Thursday.
Unlike in industrial countries, the celebrations here were fairly exclusive and did not attract much public attention, giving an impression that Labor Day celebrations were the sole domain of some 25 million low-ranking workers employed in factories and some five million migrant workers overseas.
The celebration's exclusivity was made possible in partially with the use of euphemistic words like karyawan (employees) and pegawai (officers), instead of buruh (laborers) – which has led middle and high-level workers in private and state-owned companies to perceive themselves as no longer "labor", classifying themselves instead as white-collar workers. By definition, however, all paid and unpaid workers, including the white-collar workers and civil servants, should define themselves as labor.
Unlike previous years, however, this year's Labor Day saw unions and workers organizing a peaceful mass gathering Thursday at Proclamation Monument in Jakarta. The group were protesting rampant outsourcing, contract-based recruitment and low pay which have all contributed to Indonesia's job insecurity and alarming rates of unemployment and poverty.
Indonesian migrant workers also gathered at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, protesting red tape which has been imposed on them by the Indonesian Consulate (HK) and manpower supplier agencies.
Aside from its historical context, Labor Day commemorations are very relevant to Indonesia and cannot be ignored by the government and employers in their commitments to protect workers and improve social welfare.
It is perhaps not necessary to add another holiday to commemorate Labor Day, but the Government should consider its current path toward creating good governance, broaden its horizons and repair the poor labor and human rights conditions in this country.
From a policy perspective, the government has regulations covering only 33 percent, or some 34 million members of a work force of some 108 million (under Law No. 13/2003 on labor and Law No. 39/2004 on labor export and protection) in the formal sector, while the majority 67 percent, (or 74 million) including 10.5 million jobless, have been left unregulated and unprotected.
Some 64 million workers in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), agriculture and fishery sectors have had no certainty of their future since they are employed without core labor standards, including daily minimum wages, working hours or social security programs.
The government still ignores rife outsourcing and recruitment of contract-based workers, a new strategy used by employers to reduce their labor costs to a minimum. It also failed to take action against several footwear and garment factories which last year dismissed large numbers of workers without severance pay.
Local governments under the regional autonomy cannot facilitate the signing of (bipartite) collective labor agreements (PKBs) because so far only 11,000 of 170,000 companies have had PKBs with their workers.
Only some 68,500 companies have protected their staff of eight million with social security programs (which are compulsory under Law No. 3/1992 on Jamsostek – Workers Insurance Scheme). This means the majority of 28 million workers employed by some 90,600 companies in the formal sector have been left unprotected.
We want the government to bear in mind its constitutional task of providing jobs for the (jobless) people, taking care of the poor and the orphans, and respecting workers' rights.
Generating jobs has its importance not only for socioeconomic and sociopolitical reasons, but mainly because people's identity and dignity lies in their work.
In this context, the government should be ashamed of its failure to halt the rampant extortion of low-paid migrant workers who take their own initiative to seek jobs overseas, and should create jobs for workers upon their arrival home.
It's important for the government to attract foreign investors to generate more jobs and to ease the unemployment problem. It should not blame the poor investment climate on the harsh labor laws because many other decisive factors such as double tax policy, damaged public infrastructure and legal uncertainty are all needing repair.
It is no accident that Labor Day and National Education Day are commemorated in two successive days because the education is vital to improve workers' skills and, consequently, their social welfare.
This is the main reason why the 1945 Constitution recommends the government allocate 20 percent of the state budget to the education sector, not only to educate the people, but also to improve their competitiveness in entering a liberalized labor market.
The more skilled the workers, the more they will get paid and the more their dignity will be respected.
[The author is staff writer at The Jakarta Post.]
Ahmad Bayasut, Balikpapan – Despite the beads of sweat pouring down their faces, the protesters continued to enthusiastically shout "Viva Workers! Viva the Poor!". These were the shouts led by action coordinator Yudi Zakaria and scores of demonstrators from the Balikpapan Political Committee of the Poor (KPRM) in front of the Balikpapan Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) in East Kalimantan on Friday May 2.
The KPRM is made up of the Peoples Democratic Party-Political Committee of the Poor (PRD-KPRM), the National Front for Labour Struggle-Poor Politic (FNPBI-PRM), the Urban Poor Union-Political Committee of the Poor (KPRM-SRMK) and the National Student League for Democracy-Poor Politic (LMND-PRM).
A platoon of municipal police armed with clubs was on guard in front of the assembly building. Five minutes later, DPRD Commission IV chairperson Wasiyem along with several other assembly members came out to meet with the protesters. The demonstrators however refused to speak with them saying that their demands are never heeded.
"We refuse [to hold] a hearing, because up until now the respected members in the house have never fought for the rights of workers or the urban poor", shouted Zakaria through a megaphone.
The protesters were voicing their objections to systems of contract labour and outsourcing because they have failed to bring prosperity to workers. They also said that the municipal and regional minimum wage was not enough to meet the daily needs of workers.
Zakaria said that trade unions and pro-labour organisations all across Indonesia are opposing the 2003 labour law because it stipulates that the regional minimum wage is only adjusted once every two years. This opposition is also related to rapid increases in the price of basic commodities, changes to severance pay and the spread of outsourcing.
Trade unions and pro-labour organisations have already written an alternative draft law to accommodate workers' desires.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Several different locations in Central Jakarta were rocked by demonstrations on May 1 as tens of thousands of workers commemorated May Day or International Labour Day. Protest actions took place at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, in front of the State Palace, the House of Representatives building and Proclamation Monument.
Workers raised a number of concerns including opposing labour contract system and outsourcing. Similar actions also took place in a number of other cities in Indonesia including Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya and Malang.
"The government has failed to produce polices that support workers", said Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) public relations coordinator Nining Elitos at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. As a consequence, the rate of unemployment and poverty continues to climb. "The state is responsible for protecting workers, jobs and proving a decent standard of living", said Nining.
Journalists from the Independent Alliance of Journalists (AJI) also took part in the May Day action. AJI Jakarta chairperson Jajang Jamaluddin said that they are demanding that journalists' wages be increased to 4.1 million rupiah a month. "We are also calling for improved working conditions, pensions and insurance guarantees", he said.
The atmosphere at the Proclamation Monument was even livelier. Aside from local workers, migrant worker representatives from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines also joined the protest."We are calling for our friends in Indonesia to obtain the same rights as all domestic partners everywhere", said Ika Irwaniati from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Trade Union (SBMI).
In the West Java provincial capital of Bandung, Dikdik, a labour activist from the National Student Front (FMN) said that the oppression of workers is currently being worsened by the widespread use of employment agents in the recruitment process.
Dikdik said that by depositing 1-1.5 million rupiah with a broker -- who is usually a thug or village official – a jobseeker can be accepted for work as a contract factory worker without having to pass a test. After three months however, "The company can just sack a contract labourer arbitrarily", he said. According to Dikdik, these kinds of practices are still commonplace in the Bandung industrial areas of Rancaekek and Majalaya.
In the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, East Java ABM coordinator Jamaludin highlighted systems of contract labour and outsourcing, which he said are inhuman and are becoming progressively more rampant. According to Jamaludin, there are almost no companies that do not employ these systems. Because of this therefore,"We are calling on the government to immediately put a stop to practices that impoverish workers", he said during a demonstration in front of the East Java governor's office.
Similar demands were made by Nanang Setyono, the chairperson of the Semarang National Trade Union (SPN) chairperson and the Agastani, the public relations officer for the Malang People's Struggle Forum (FPR).
[Slightly abridge translation by James Balowski.]
Jakarta"belonged" to workers yesterday when tens of thousands of protesters flooded on to the main streets of the capital city to commemorate Labour Day, which is popularly known as May Day.
Demonstrations were held at at least five points in the city – the Bung Karno Sports Stadium, the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, Banteng Square, the Jamsostek (state-run workers insurance scheme) office and the State Palace.
The State Palace in Central Jakarta was besieged by around 10,000 from the Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM). The demonstrators were disappointed because the palace was empty – with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spending the day at his private residence in Cikeas, Bogor.
The palace was like the outlet to a river for a long-march by thousands of workers arriving from different points in the city carrying scores of trade unions and student organisations flags and thousands of banners. Upon arriving at the palace, speakers called on the government and employers to improve workers' welfare.
The demonstrators also brought a number of large puppets resembling cows to symbolise the fate of workers who have become little more than cash cows. Others carried dummies hanging from bamboo stakes to symbolise the fate of marginal workers. "These puppets symbolise the fate of migrant workers who have simply become cash cows or the producers of foreign exchange without any protection", asserted Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah.
In front of the State Palace, the cries of disappointment with the government reached a crescendo when protesters realised that Yudhoyono was not going to meet with them. The protesters said that the promises made during the presidential election campaign have not been realised because the government favours the interests of business over workers. "The working class is kept down so that their wages are low, while employers continue to be provided with facilities so their wealth grows", said a speaker from ABM.
Angry over Yudhoyono's absence, speakers also called on protesters to take over the palace, however the call turned out to just a bluff because more than 3,000 police officers had formed a barrier surrounding the State Palace, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Some of the protesters even tried to jump the barbed wire fence resulting in a minor clash with police.
At the Bung Karno Sports Stadium, the Workers Alliance Forum (FAP) held an action titled May Day Fiesta 2008. The FAP is made up of the National Workers Union (SPN), the All Indonesia Workers Union-Electronic and Machinery Trade Union (FSP LEM-SPSI) and the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI). At least 30,000 workers took part in the fiesta during which they highlighted the fact 10 years of labour reform has yet to provide protection to or improve the welfare of workers.
At the Hotel Indonesia roundabout meanwhile, a protest action was held by the Volunteers for Democratic Struggle (RPD), the United Workers Committee (KBB), the People's Struggle Front (FPR) and the University of Indonesia Student Executive Council (BEM). FSPMI also held an action at the House of Representatives building.
[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]
Jakarta – The heat of the capital's sweltering sun on Thursday did not stop thousands of people from joining the World Labor Day rallies, closing down Jakarta's major thoroughfares and halting traffic.
Some 18,000 people held two large rallies in front of the State Palace and the House of Representatives, shouting out their demands for higher wages and their objections to the current contract system for blue-collar workers.
"The government has yet to show its support for the country's working class, who have been denied their rights. We gather here to tell them that the government is responsible for their labor problems," said Ansari, one of the rally's field coordinators.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the government would continue to consider the fate of workers to ensure a good relationship between them and their employers.
"Employers and workers need each other. It's impossible for employers to be without workers, and vice versa," said presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng, as quoted by Antara on Thursday.
In one of the May Day rallies, as the day is popularly known, thousands of people from 30 workers' associations and non- governmental organizations swarmed around the Hotel Indonesia roundabout from 10 a.m. Using buses and trucks, the protesters came in colorful clothes, holding banners and flags and yelling out chants. Later on, some 8,000 people started to march to the State Palace.
The rallies forced the Jakarta Police to close down Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Jl. Medan Merdeka Barat and Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara as the protesters walked 2.5 kilometers and stopped a few times for speeches.
"Workers rule! The people should be prosperous!", "Destroy capitalists!", "Long live the people, long live the workers!" were chanted by the crowd. They were welcomed by the police in front of the Palace with barbed wire and a water cannon car.
It was a similar situation outside the House where thousands of workers staged another rally. The Jakarta Police's Traffic Management Center reported people who gathered in front of the House before joining in the May Day Fiesta and the nearby Bung Karno Stadium. The event featured the People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid and famous pop group Nidji.
Some 200 protesters rallying in front of the Wisma Bakrie in Kuningan, South Jakarta, about the effect of the Lapindo mudflow were arrested by South Jakarta Police for not holding a police permit for a rally.
Separately, the Asian Migrant Domestic Workers Alliance, the International Labor Organization and several local organizations held a protest at Tugu Proklamasi in Menteng, Central Jakarta, urging the government to recognize domestic helpers.
"We want domestic helpers to have the same protection, salaries and working contracts like other legal jobs," said Sumiati, a secretary at the Alliance.
The city administration, police and army deployed up to 15,000 personnel to guard the rallies. (dre)
Jakarta – Workers and students across the country took to the streets Thursday to commemorate International Labor Day.
In Bandung, West Java, workers from industrial centers in Bandung, Cimahi and surrounding cities held rallies on Wednesday and Thursday. They demanded the government press ahead with the revocation of the 2003 law on labor, which they said harmed workers' interests with its outsourcing and contract systems.
Members of labor organizations and students protested together in front of the gubernatorial and legislative offices at the Gedung Sate complex on Jl. Diponegoro.
In Bandarlampung, Lampung, Labor Day was observed by members of labor unions grouped in the People's Struggle Front, who took part in a five-kilometer march from Taqwa Mosque to Gajah Monument in the city center.
They demanded the government intervene to bring down the prices of basic goods, subsidize education and healthcare, raise the minimum wage, eliminate the contract system of work and outsourcing, and create more job opportunities.
In Makassar, South Sulawesi, workers criticized the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, saying their policies disfavored the poor and workers.
They also blamed the government for soaring food prices and for policies they said hurt businesses and forced them to lay off employees.
In Surabaya, East Java, thousands of workers from different labor unions affiliated with the People's Struggle Front, together with students, demonstrated at a number of different sites in the city.
The nearly simultaneous rallies called for improved living standards for workers.
In Banda Aceh, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, scores of labor activists paraded around the city. They demanded the Aceh provincial administration double the monthly minimum wage from Rp 1 million (US$110) to Rp 2 million, to allow workers and their families to lead decent lives.
In Batam, Riau Islands, labor groups rejected outsourcing and contract systems of work, as well as the 1992 law on Jamsostek workers' insurance, which they said deprived them of their labor rights.
In Yogyakarta, thousands of workers from different organizations took to the streets demanding the government curb the prices of staple goods.
"Our minimum wage is very low, while the prices of basic needs have skyrocketed, adversely affecting workers. Most of us are no longer able to make ends meet," one protester told the crowd. The crowd responded with shouts of "Bring prices down immediately!"
In Medan, North Sumatra, there were no major rallies on Labor Day. Workers said they did not organize rallies because Labor Day coincided with a national holiday, the Ascension Day of Jesus Christ.
However, the previous day workers protested at several different locations in the city, including the governor's office, the legislative building and the Medan District Court. They demanded the government raise wages and improve their living standards.
Dicky Christanto, Denpasar – Protesters at a May Day rally held in Denpasar on Thursday accused the government of failing to protect Indonesians working longer hours for no extra pay.
The alliance of organizations commemorating the May 1 International Workers' Day displayed dozens of banners while activists gave speeches about how "unfriendly" government policies had jeopardized workers' lives.
Rally coordinator Samsul Arifin said the government had systematically weakened workers' conditions by allowing employers to enforce double shifts for less money.
"Most businesspeople are completely aware that workers don't have a choice but to continue working," he told the crowd, which included members of the Alliance of People for Democracy and Human Rights (ARDHAM) from student organizations, rights activists and pro-bono lawyer organizations.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No.47/1935 stipulates employees work eight hours a day.
Samsul said factory workers as well as those from other sectors, such as office employees and even journalists, were subjected to such conditions.
Anton Muhajir of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) said it was ironic journalists often covered stories about the mistreatment of workers, as they themselves were underpaid. He said this often caused ethical problems, as some journalists accepted money from their sources while covering stories.
"If media owners are really concerned about building an impartial media there is no other way but to pay serious attention to improving journalists' economic conditions," he said.
A group of Papuan students calling themselves the Front of West Papuan Struggle also held a rally for Papuan independence near the governor's office, but it ended abruptly after police dispersed the crowd by force.
Head of city police Sr. Comr. Alit Widana, who was on the site, said the Papuan students' rally was dismissed by force because the rally organizers had not yet acquired a permit from the police. "Besides, the issue of independence is not included in their application for the permit," he told reporters.
Some students were arrested by the city police, who also confiscated fliers calling for Papuan independence, banners and spears used as accessories in their traditional dancing.
Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Thousands of workers protested Wednesday in front of City Hall, demanding the administration punish employers who do not provide life and accident insurance.
In accordance with the 2006 gubernatorial regulation, all companies must provide life and accident insurance to their workers.
Thousands from Indonesian Workers Association (Aspek Indonesia) and the National Worker Association (SPN) participated in the staged protest.
"Around 95 to 97 percent of companies, where our members work, do not provide such insurances for their employees as mandated in the regulation," Endang Sunarto, the chairman of SPN's Jakarta chapter, said.
Violations still occur although companies must submit documents every year when they process their business license to prove their employees' have the required insurance.
Endang met with Deputy Governor Prijanto and a number of other city officials Wednesday to discuss the issue. Aspek and SPN representatives also attended the meeting.
Endang urged the administration to issue regulations to support the 2004 labor empowerment law to guarantee workers' right to recreational facilities.
Companies in the city have yet to provide facilities due to the absence of supporting regulations, he said. Prijanto said he would study the ordinance and the possibility of issuing such a regulation.
In addition to SPN's demands, Aspek Secretary General Indra Yana urged the administration to expedite the salary payment to public service agency Ambulans Gawat Darurat's employees.
"The agency has delayed salary payment to more than 200 employees for four months due to their obscure status, yet, according to the regulation, the agency's director should be penalized if the payment is delayed by only eight days," he said.
A similar incident occurred in 2006 when employees were left unpaid for six months, Arif Fatahillah, an agency employee, said.
Prijanto said he would help settle the issue, inviting Arif and his colleagues to another meeting next Monday.
Endang also said the administration should provide low-cost housings, particularly for employees working in the industrial bonded zone in North Jakarta.
"Those employees, who mostly come from outside Jakarta, spend 15 percent to 20 percent of their monthly income paying for accommodation in unhealthy, improper boarding houses," he said.
As part of the national program, the administration was building low-cost apartments to provide for low-income households, said Prijanto.
The government plans to build 1,000 low-cost apartment blocks with the prices of individual units ranging between Rp 90 million and Rp 144 million in the 10 big cities.
Neli Triana – Its 10am on Thursday May 1, and nine-year-old Nur Alfi is standing in the middle of a sea of workers at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta. Representing her father, a contract worker who is now unemployed after being sacked, Nur Alfi is enthusiastically taking part in this year's May Day protests to demanding justice and a better future for workers.
"Five years ago, my father was forced to become a motorcycle taxi driver (ojek) because he was dismissed from the factory where he usually worked. I heard from mum, dad can't work because his contract is over. This was perhaps the third time dad has been sacked", said Nur Alfi on Thursday.
Although at the time she was still a child, Nur Alfi felt the confusion of her family because her father Mukhlis (35) – who used to work at a factory in the Nusantara Bonded Zone (KBN) in Cakung, East Jakarta – suddenly stopped receiving a routine monthly income.
Her mother, Siti Solekha (34) – who is also a worker at the company PT Kwang Duk in the KBN – became the backbone of the family and took on the burden of supporting her husband and four children. Mukhlis receive not one cent in severance pay. Nur Alfi feels this is unfair.
"Every year it gets harder, the cost of living is steadily rising. Certainly, my income has now increased to 1.2 million rupiah a month. But that was only after continually extending my contract for one year at time, over the last five years. My husband meanwhile does sometimes get a bit of money, but mostly it's spent on petrol working as an ojek", said Siti.
The family live in a cramped house inherited from Siti's parents in the Malaka RT 5 RW 6 quarter of Rorotan in Cilincing, North Jakarta. Siti has to be very cleaver how she divides up her monthly wage, and borrows from here and there to pay for her children to attend school.
Siti will be safe – at least until the end of this year – because she still has a contract with PT Kwang Duk. When asked however about her prospects for the future, she could only shake her head in resignation.
Siti said that she wants her children to stay in school, so that at some time in the future they will be able to get a better job then she. However if the price of basic food and fuel continues to rise as it is at the moment, her wage will not be enough to fulfil her family's needs. Her dreams of a better future for her children may well flounder.
As her mother was speaking, Nur Alfi, who is in grade IV primary school, waved a small flag with the writing, "Abolish outsourcing systems and provide employment opportunities with a decent wage".
Similar feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about the future filled the hearts of more than 23,000 workers who arrived from all corners of Jakarta, Tangerang, Bekasi, Bogor and even Serang in Banten regency, to protest in front of the House of Representatives building, at the Bung Karno Sports Stadium, the Hotel Indonesia roundabout and the State Palace yesterday.
"This is a chance for us to convey our views without being afraid of intimidation after we return to work in the factories. We have waited a year for this action", said Ela (25) – not her real name -- who works at PT Nico Mas Gemilang in Serang.
According to Ela, intimidation still haunts workers who try to struggle for their future. Currently, she feels quite fortunate after being accepted for work with a wage of 927,000 rupiah a month, in accordance with the regional minimum wage.
After graduating from senior high school in Lampung, North Sumatra, seven yeas ago, she has been moving from company to company in Jakarta and Banten.
Ela once payed an employment agent 1 million rupiah to find work, although as it turned out it was only for a job with a wage of 575,000 rupiah per month and a six month contract. Ela then protested against the agent and the company. The end result was that she was only employed for three months and dismissed without an explanation.
Intimidation against workers who are critical is not limited to dismissals, but psychological pressure and physical violence is also employed. Company security personnel often double as hatchet men for the boss. "Women often become targets of sexual harassment. Male workers are a most beaten or threatened with dismissal or being killed if they are vocal. Out of the thousands of companies in Indonesia, less then 100 companies are open to or side with workers", said Sutikno, one of the marshals at the May Day action.
In the greater Jakarta area of Jabodetabek there are at least 6 million workers who have official positions in companies or specific work places and around 4 million who work unofficially.
"Almost 100 percent of all our workers are paid under the minimum wage standard", said Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) regional coordinator for labour affairs Sultoni.
According to Sultoni, although in 2007 the minimum wage for workers in Jakarta province was raised to 972,000 rupiah a month, this was not a significant increase compared with 2006.
In reality, many factory workers, even those working in foreign companies, are only paid a basic wage of 500,000 rupiah a month. ABM is calling on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to set the national minimum wage at 3.2 million per month.
With a minimum wage such as this, only then will Indonesian workers be able to pay for their children's education, cover the cost of healthcare and have a chance to relax.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Surabaya – The commemoration of International Labour Day on Thursday May 1 was marked with protest actions in several East Java cities. Workers and students also held demonstrations in Bandung, Denpasar, Palembang and Bandar Lampung.
In the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, an alliance of workers from Surabaya, Gresik, Mojokerto, Sidoarjo and Pasuruan marched through the city demanding an end to systems of contract labour and outsourcing and the dissolution of the Industrial Relations Court.
Upon arriving at Jl. Pahlawan, the protesters were intercepted by hundreds of police who had erected a blockade under the railway bridge. A number of anti-riot police complete wearing shields were also standing guard and two fire trucks were parked alongside the East Java governor's office. A protest also took place in front of the State Grahadi Building.
In the East Java city of Madiun, employees from the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api commemorated May Day by cleaning up the station, checking the readiness of trains and conducting a passenger ticket inspections on passing trains.
"For this Labour Day, PT Kereta Api Trade Union workers agreed not to hold a demonstration. We are commemorating it in a different way", said PT Kereta Api Trade Union regional leadership board secretary Haryono at the Madiun station on Thursday. This was because previous demands by the union seeking improvements in employee welfare have already been implemented.
In the Balinese provincial capital of Denpasar, at around 10am on Thursday municipal police arrested two students from West Papua in the area of the Bajra Shandi Monument in Renon. They were suspected of joining the May Day commemoration to voice calls for a referendum for Papua and West Papua.
Denpasar police chief Deputy Senior Commissioner Alit Widana said that when they were arrested, the two students – who have not revealed their identity – were carrying banners and posters blaspheming the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and calls for a referendum to be held for the people of Papua and West Papua.
A demonstration was also held in Denpasar by a group calling themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights (Ardham). Made up of the Association of Catholic Students (PMKRI), the Bali Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Bali), the Bali Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI Bali) and the Bali alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Bali), they called for and end to mass dismissals and labour contract systems.
An action by workers in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on Wednesday April 30 also proceeded in an orderly fashion and was joined not just workers, but farm labourers and students also. The action, which was cantered at the Gedung Sate building complex, was joined by around 3,000 workers from the National Workers Union (SPN).
Four other labour organisations including the West Java Indonesian Labour Union Confederation (Gaspermindo), the West Java Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI), the Association of Concerned Labour Youth (PPMP) and the May 1 Commemoration Committee, chose to hold a protest action on earlier on Wednesday, which was also joined by around 3,000 workers.
The main demands being articulated were similar to last year – the abolition of contract labour systems and an end to outsourcing. They also called for decent wages and a reduction in the price of basic commodities. According to Gaspermindo chairperson Bambang Eka, out the union's 50,000 members, 50 percent are contract labourers.
Similar demands were also articulated by 500 workers from various different trade unions in the North Sumatra city of Banda Lampung who held a march from the Adipura Monument in the centre of the city to the shopping centre on Jl. Kartini. The action, which was guarded by officers from the Banda Lampung municipal police, was then continued in front of the Tanjungkarang train station.
Demonstrations commemorating May Day were also held in the South Sumatra city of Palembang where scores of protesters held speeches at the Fountain Roundabout followed by a march to the South Sumatra Regional House of Representatives building.
A number of different groups joined the protest including the National Student Front (FMN), the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), the Palembang Legal Aid Foundation and the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI). The protesters brought effigies symbolising capitalist forces such as the World Trade Organisation and the United State.
Thousands of workers in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar also called for the abolition of labour contract systems as well as the revocation of laws that fail to side with workers, the nationalisation of mining assets and a reduction in the price of basic commodities.
The action was joined by a number of organisations involved in advocacy for workers including the Peoples Challenge Front of Struggle (FPRM) and the Association of Workers and People for Nationalisation (PBRN). (A14/A07/APA/BEN/LSD/WAD/HLN/NAR)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta – The minimum wage is still not enough to fulfil the daily needs of workers in the major cities of Medan, Bandung, Jakarta and Surabaya. Many workers are making up the difference by falling into debt while job security levels remain low.
International Labour Day or May Day commemorations on Wednesday and Thursday, which took place simultaneously in Jakarta and major cities throughout Indonesia, proceed relatively peacefully. Workers from a number of different trade union associations or federations held a series of orderly marches.
Workers raised a number of concerns, including among others, wage levels that are now unable to fulfil the most basic need: food. This was also depicted by the purchasing power index and the employee perception index in a survey released by the All Indonesian Employees Organisation (OPSI) in Jakarta on Wednesday April 30.
The qualitative index was obtained through a survey of 910 workers with a wage of between 1-15 million rupiah per month in the cities of Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Bandung. Around half of the respondents surveyed had an income of between 1-3 million rupiah per month.
OPSI president Yanuar Risky said that the average minimum wage applied in these cities was 900,000 rupiah per month. This figure is clearly not enough for workers because the purchasing power index survey indicated that in order to meet basic consumption needs, an unmarried worker contracting a house needs a minimum of 1.82 million rupiah a month. Unmarried workers paying instalments on a house meanwhile need a minimum of 1.41 million rupiah per month and workers with families paying off a house need a minimum of 3.12 million rupiah.
Falling into debt
The purchasing power index indicates that the minimum wage being applied in these four cities is simply not enough to cover the real cost of living. In order to make up the deficit, workers have to borrow from employee cooperatives, borrow on their credit cards, seek loans from family and friends, pawn their belongings or simply try to economise.
Credit card debt is mostly accumulated by respondents with an income of between 3-5 million rupiah per month. "But, the survey also found that there are workers with incomes under 1 million rupiah a month who are relying on credit card debt for basic consumption", said Risky.
The survey, carried out by OPSI in cooperation with German-based Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), also measured the work perception index which covers transportation, food, healthcare, education, job security and social security. The lowest index was found for workers' expectations of job security followed by meeting the cost of household necessities.
Based on the survey – which took place between January and April this year – Risky warned that it will be difficult for workers to bear the recent increases in the price of food and transportation costs because the largest allocation of a worker's income is use for these two components of expenditure.
In the Nusantara Bonded Zones (KBN) of Cakung and Marunda in North Jakarta, a demonstration by around 2,000 workers took place on Wednesday to protest the mistreatment of workers. They also said that this mistreatment is becoming more systematic because of the growing strength of capitalism and the weakness of government control.
The protesters said this mistreatment includes, among other things, low wages that are inadequate to cover the real cost of living. They also cited frequent acts of coercion and intimidation, the failure to pay dismissed workers severance pay, the lack of healthcare cover and limited opportunities for carrier advancement.
"Because of this therefore, we are calling on the government to immediately establish a labour supervisory body directly under [the authority] of the president and to deal with labour problems as fairly and justly as possible", said Halim, the chairperson of the Jakarta National Workers Union (SPN). "Many workers' wages are inadequate and healthcare is never provided for", he added.
Halim also called for the abolition of outsourcing and contract labour saying this only benefits the capitalist class. "Moreover labour systems such as this violate Law Number 13/2003 on the resolution of industrial disputes", said Halim.
Wartini (25) and Leny (23), contract labourers with the company PT Msg in the Cakung KBN said that as a result of this poor treatment, workers face an uncertain future. "The size of our monthly wage is already inadequate because increases in the price of basic commodities continue to take place", they said.
Wartini and Leny receive a wage from PT Msg of 976,800 rupiah per month. "Our wages have not been increased for two years. The price of basic commodities continues to rise. What's more, for rent, food and transport it is totally inadequate", said Leny.
Tuti (28), Irma (32) and Sulastri (29), employees with PT Western Indonesia who receive a wage in accordance with the minimum regional wage (UMP) believe that it needs to be corrected and increased again in concert with the increase in the cost of living. They also raised questions about the wages of foreign workers which are higher than their Indonesian counterparts even though their skills are the same.
Based on information obtained from workers, their average wage in the KBN is around 900,000 to 1.35 million rupiah a month. Many of these workers do not receive holiday bonuses (THR). (day/cal/ARN)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Factory workers from the East Java Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) held a demonstration to greet International Labour Day on May 1 in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya demanding the abolition of contract labour and outsourcing.
The action took place in front of the State Grahadi building – the East Java governor's office – on Jl. Pahlawan and the Surabaya District Court. Protesters came from a number of cities in East Java including Malang, Sidoarjo, Gresik, Pasuruan, Mojokerto, Jombang, Kediri and Jember.
ABM spokesperson Jamaludin said that workers are currently facing a number of labour problems. Contract labour systems and outsourcing, which are regulated under the 2003 labour law in Indonesia, allow companies to employ workers by bonding them as contract labourers.
"Whereas, they are working in permanent types of jobs. Workers can so easily become destitute just because their contracts are not extended or companies think they no longer need them", he said.
Indonesian Employers Association advisor Wiem Patiradjawane said that he supports workers obtaining their rights. He called on companies to view workers as partners."Don't just view workers as a burden. If workers are prosperous, the company will get more profits because productivity will rise", he said.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]
Erick Priberkah Hardi, Bandung – Thousands of people from worker, farmer and student organisations inundated the Gedung Sate building complex in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung today. Aside from condemning the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla for failing to side with workers and farmers, they also called for the abolition of contract labour systems and outsourcing.
"Provide job security, abolish labour contract systems and outsourcing", said Hidayat from the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI). Hidayat also said they are calling for agrarian reform through the implementation 1960 agrarian law and the abolition of the law on foreign investment.
Although International Labour Day is a national holiday, many workers were unable to attend the protest because companies continued to operate and refused to give their employees the day off.
"As a result only a few representatives came, whereas usually if it's a holiday workers get a break", said Hidayat. Because of this therefore, KASBI and other trade unions have agreed to demand that May become a national holiday.
Dikdik, an activist with the National Student Front (FMN) said that the oppression of workers has been worsened by the spread of labour brokers in the recruitment of workers. Only by paying 1- 1.5 million rupiah to brokers – who are usually thugs or village officials – can jobseekers obtain work as contract labourers. "Whereas after working for three months for example, the worker's contract can be terminated unilaterally by the company", said Dikdik.
Aside from KABBI and FNM, also commemorating May Day were workers from the Association of Independent Indonesian Trade Unions (GSPMI), the 1992 Indonesian Prosperous Labour Union (SBSI), Agrarian Reform and the Bandung Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).
Meanwhile in a press release handed out during a break at the demonstration, AJI said that may media workers such as journalists ware paid below that the cost of living. The group called for journalists to be paid a decent wage and an end to contract labour systems and outsourcing and demanded safeguards for journalists in the form of workplace accident insurance, heath insurance and life insurance.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]
Rofiqi Hasan, Denpasar – Hundreds of workers, students and journalists in Bali commemorated International Labour Day at the Bajra Sandhi Monument in the provincial capital of Denpasar, where they called for wage increases, the abolition of contract labour and guarantees of the freedom to associate.
The protesters, who were organised by the People's Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights (Ardham), held a long-march from the Alliance of Independent Journalist's (AJI) offices to the monument. During the march they handed out leaflets and carried posters with messages such as "Oppose Neoliberalism, Defend Workers", "Journalists are Also Workers" and "Stop Mass Dismissals".
In a speech, action coordinator Samsul Arifin said that workers' lives had not improved since reformasi. "Moreover it has become progressively worse because the government only defends the interests of employers", he said. Arifin added that many companies ignore the maximum eight hour working day, prohibit workers from organising and employ contract labour.
Miftahuddin Halim from AJI Denpasar said that journalists are also workers."Now days journalists are paid very low wages and have to work very hard", he said. Halim added that journalists tend to be employed by media owners simply to make profit for business without heeding social problems.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]