May Day march in Aceh calls for welfare improvements, new labour regulation

Kumparan – May 1, 2019
Workers hold May Day action in Banda Aceh – May 1, 2019 (Kumparan)
Workers hold May Day action in Banda Aceh – May 1, 2019 (Kumparan)

Two hundred protesters held an action commemorating May Day 2019 or Labour Day on May 1 which was centred in front of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh. The action also included a motorcycle convoy around the city.

The action, which was also attended by Aceh Governor Nova Iriansyah, was joined by a number of labour and professional organisations in Aceh which are affiliated with the Aceh Labour Alliance (ABA). The groups demanded welfare improvements for Acehnese workers and for the government to enact a number of regulations.

ABA chairperson Saiful Mar said that there have been many achievements in fighting for workers rights in Aceh. The 2019 Aceh provincial minimum wage (UMP) which has been set at 2.9 million rupiah a month is one of the indicators of the government’s concern in fighting for labour rights in Aceh.

“The UMP following the tsunami (in 2005) was only 800,000 rupiah, now it’s risen to 2.9 million rupiah”, he said.

At this year’s action, Saiful said that they are making a number of demands on the government. Aside from improving workers’ welfare, they are also asking the Aceh government to finalise a gubernatorial regulations on labour which is derived from Qanun (bylaw) Number 7/2014 on Labour. “This is to maximise the regulation on workers’ welfare”, he said.

In addition to this they are also asking the Aceh government intervene in the market to push down the price of meat on Meugang – a traditional celebration in the lead up to the Islamic fasting month.

“Make it so people can have a holiday on Meugang, Meugang is very special for people in Aceh”, said Saiful.

Responding to the workers’ demands, Iriansyah said that the workers’ struggle has been successful and May Day represents a universal momentum which is celebrated throughout the world. The government has even given office workers the day off so they can celebrate the day with workers. “Keep fighting and viva the (workers’) holiday”, said Iriansyah.

According to Iriansyah workers are a partner working with the government in resolving problems. “I’m happy. We have succeeded in changing the image of workers into something positive and working in sync with the government”, he said, which was greeted by applause from the demonstrators.

Iriansyah said that the government would soon draft a regulation on labour and would involve the labour alliance in the process. He also agreed that the price of meat during Meugang was expensive and the government would intervene in the market if the price rose sharply. He added that the government would include Meugang as a holiday when drafting the gubernatorial regulation.

After giving speeches in front of the Grand Mosque, along with the Iriansyah they held a motorcycle convoy around Banda Aceh. This year’s May Day in Aceh was also commemorated with blood donations and sports activities.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “May Day di Aceh: Buruh Minta Libur Meugang