Indonesian unions say more than 2 million factory workers have gone on a one-day strike across the country to call for higher wages and protest the hiring of contract workers.
National police spokesman Col. Agus Rianto says hundreds of thousands of laborers from more than 700 companies at 80 industrial estates took to the streets in protest Wednesday.
Yoris Raweyai, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers’ Union, says workers want the government to revise a law allowing companies to hire temporary workers on one-year contracts without benefits — a practice called “outsourcing” in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled in January that the hiring practice is unconstitutional and violates workers’ rights.
“The [protest’s] agenda is to ask for the abolition of the outsourcing system in recruiting workers, [and demand a] pay hike and health security for all workers [by] 2014, instead of 2019 as planned by the government,” Said Iqbal, chairman of the Indonesian Labor Assembly (MPBI) said.
About 23,000 workers planned to march in Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon, and some 15,000 police were expected to be deployed to safeguard the rally. In Jakarta, workers on strike conducted sweeps of factories throughout the metro area, pulling other workers to the protest lines. Most companies in greater Jakarta were forced to close on Wednesday.
More than 2,000 protestors rallied in front of the Jakarta Legislative Council (DPRD) in Kebon Sirih, as traffic ground to a halt in many Central and South Jakarta neighborhoods. Additional protests took place at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, at the National Monument (Monas) and outside the offices of the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration and the Ministry of Health.
Other protests included demonstrations in Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Cilegon, Karawang, Sukabumi, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Batam, Medan and Makassar.
Protestors in Makassar likened contract work to modern-day slavery.
“[The] system causes big losses to the workers,” said Andi Mallanti, of the South Sulawesi chapter of the Indonesian Workers Welfare Union (SBSI). “The workers are not known by the company, they work through a third party [and can] be fired without compensation.”
In Batam, some 25,000 workers surrounded the Batam mayor’s office in protest. In Bekasi, demonstrators caused police to close the toll road exit in West Cikarang.
“We’re not robots that they can treat the way they like,” Ralenti, one of the protesters, said. “Treat us like a humans, give us proper wages and health insurance.”
In Depok, protestors caused gridlock along Jalan Raya Bogor. In Bandung, they sung Dangdut and Sundanese songs and danced during the demonstration.
The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) urged the government to stand with local business leaders, explaining that contract workers are necessary part of doing business in Indonesia.
“There are many big banks such as Bank Mandiri, BRI or Citibank that implement outsourcing but never had problem with it,” Fahmi Idris, advisory board chairman of KADIN, said. “After the contract ends, the worker returns to the outsourcing company as permanent employee. They are misunderstanding the outsourcing practice and I think it is inappropriate to ban it.”
Businesswoman Mooryati Soedibyo, also a member of the KADIN advisory board, said the government needed to listen to both sides.
“Let’s create win-win solution,” she said. “Business people should be given easy access in doing business, while workers’ demands for welfare improvement should also be implemented.”