Thousands of Indonesian workers urged the government to raise minimum wages and improve working conditions. (Reuters Photo/Beawiharta)

Government Policy, Wages Are Workers’ Key Gripes On May 1


MAY 01, 2015

Jakarta. Calls for a cabinet reshuffle as well as the enactment of key legislation were among workers’ demands on May Day this Friday, as tens of thousands of workers took to the streets of major cities across Indonesia.

The demonstrations in the capital were centered outside the State Palace in Central Jakarta, with dozens of labor unions represented among the thousands of people in attendance.

Jumhur Hidayat, the deputy chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI), urged President Joko Widodo to replace cabinet members deemed hostile to workers’ interests.

He cited a recent policy issued by Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri allowing only company-level union representatives to conduct negotiations between workers and their employers.

This, he argued, blocked workers from having access to more experienced lobbyists from national-level labor unions.

Jumhur also criticized Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti for refusing to rescind or delay a ban on the use of trawl nets.

“We still believe in the president,” Jumhur said. 

“But we can easily make a U-turn if the government keeps issuing unfavorable policies.”

Workers also called on the government to push legislation on a more independent manpower oversight system and protection of informal and domestic workers, as well as amend the Industrial Affairs Dispute Resolution Law and the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers Overseas Law.

Tens of thousands of workers also marched on Jakarta’s main streets to reject government plans to revisit the minimum wage every two years.

Provincial minimum wage negotiations are currently conducted every year.

Workers also demanded a better pension scheme under the universal social security system, known as the BPJS.

The workers began gathering at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Friday morning before marching north on Jalan M.H. Thamrin to the State Palace.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Unggung Cahyono said more than 14,000 police and military personnel were deployed during the demonstration.

He added that police had also been busy redirecting traffic away from the affected avenues of Jalan Thamrin and Jalan Sudirman.

Unggung said the workers’ rally outside the State Palace had been scheduled to end at 5 p.m., but disbanded after the workers held Friday noon prayers on the streets.