Jakarta. The thousands of workers rallying in Central Jakarta on Tuesday primarily wanted to get the message across that they need higher wages and better protection against the impacts of Indonesia's economic slowdown, labor activists said.
Three labor groups organized Tuesday's protest march from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the State Palace: the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI), the Indonesian Trade Union Confederation (KSPI) and the Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union Confederation (KSBSI).
Andi Gani Nenawea, who heads the KSPSI, said workers' lives had been badly impacted by the fluctuating prices of staple food prices and, overall, by the slowing economy.
"We demand the government issue policies that side with the workers. For a long time the government has sided with business. We want the government to take real action to save the economy," Andi said in his speech addressing the crowd on Tuesday.
The KSPSI urged the government to protect industries to prevent mass layoffs of factory workers. The organization also asked for a reasonable living cost index, or KHL, which is the main gauge for determining minimum wage levels, and wanted the government to take steps against the criminalization of labor activists.
Meanwhile, KSPI chief Said Iqbal urged the government to raise the minimum wage by 25 percent next year to help compensate for the effects of the economic downturn. He said that workers already struggled to make ends meet. but the depreciation of the rupiah is still forcing companies to close down production lines, leading to mass layoffs.
"If Jokowi's administration does not listen to our protest today we will take it a step further and all workers from these three organizations will conduct a nationwide strike," Said said, referring to President Joko Widodo by his popular nickname.
Demonstrators on Tuesday dispersed peacefully amid heavy security presence. No major disturbances of the public order were reported during the day.