Ramidi, Jakarta – Around 500 members of the United Workers’ Alliance held an action in front of the State Palace on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat on Tuesday December 21 to protest against wage policies and fuel price increases.
The hundreds of demonstrators, who represent a grouping of organisations including the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI), FSPTSK, the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Forum (FSPMI), the Indonesian Association of Trade Workers (ASPEK), the Indonesian Trade Union Action Committee (KASBI), FSPAR, PPMI, YBMI, the People’s Democratic Party (PRD) and the Jabotabek Trade Union (SBJ), took up part of the Jalan Medan Merdeka road resulting in a traffic jam.
The hundreds of protesters who had been demonstrating since 11am, as well as bringing a pickup truck which was complete with a sound system also brought flags and posters. According to one of the action coordinators, Lukman Hakim, they represent a grouping of worker organisations who reject the Jakarta Provincial Minimum Wage being set at 711,843 rupiah per month. “We demand a Jakarta Provincial Minimum Wage of 759,000 in accordance with the results of the Basic Cost of Living survey”, said Hakim.
In addition to this, they are also rejecting fuel price increases because they will have a adverse impact on workers and purchasing power of the poor. According to Hakim, they have also declared that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice-president Jusuf Kalla lied about their promises for reform. This has been proven by the policy to increase fuel prices and maintaining cheap wages, while the big-time corrupters who remain free should be arrested and their assets seized to cover the fuel subsidy. Starting as of this moment, they are demanding that Yudhoyono form a government which is clean, democratic, independent and pro-people.
As well as calling for immediate wage increases, in order to confront the problem the Workers’ Alliance is proposing cost saving measures such as abolishing invisible payments for industry which according to research by Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) are as high as 5-20 per cent. “Meanwhile to pay workers wages they are only spending 7 per cent of production costs”, he said.
In order to avoid fuel price increases, the alliance is offering a way out, by seizing the assets of the corrupters and withdrawing funds for the re-capitalisation of the banking industry. The other solution is that the Yudhoyono government have the courage to refuse to pay the foreign debt until such a time as ordinary people achieve an appropriate standard of living.
The demonstration began in front of the Indosat building then moved of towards the offices of the Jakarta governor on Jalan Medan Merdeka Timor after which they held a long-march to the State Palace. Traffic conditions on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat were congested and the sound of car horns of vehicles stuck in the traffic jam blended with the sound of speeches from the demonstrators sound system.
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]