Surabaya – The commemoration of International Labour Day on Thursday May 1 was marked with protest actions in several East Java cities. Workers and students also held demonstrations in Bandung, Denpasar, Palembang and Bandar Lampung.
In the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, an alliance of workers from Surabaya, Gresik, Mojokerto, Sidoarjo and Pasuruan marched through the city demanding an end to systems of contract labour and outsourcing and the dissolution of the Industrial Relations Court.
Upon arriving at Jl. Pahlawan, the protesters were intercepted by hundreds of police who had erected a blockade under the railway bridge. A number of anti-riot police complete wearing shields were also standing guard and two fire trucks were parked alongside the East Java governor’s office. A protest also took place in front of the State Grahadi Building.
In the East Java city of Madiun, employees from the state-owned railway company PT Kereta Api commemorated May Day by cleaning up the station, checking the readiness of trains and conducting a passenger ticket inspections on passing trains.
“For this Labour Day, PT Kereta Api Trade Union workers agreed not to hold a demonstration. We are commemorating it in a different way”, said PT Kereta Api Trade Union regional leadership board secretary Haryono at the Madiun station on Thursday. This was because previous demands by the union seeking improvements in employee welfare have already been implemented.
In the Balinese provincial capital of Denpasar, at around 10am on Thursday municipal police arrested two students from West Papua in the area of the Bajra Shandi Monument in Renon. They were suspected of joining the May Day commemoration to voice calls for a referendum for Papua and West Papua.
Denpasar police chief Deputy Senior Commissioner Alit Widana said that when they were arrested, the two students – who have not revealed their identity – were carrying banners and posters blaspheming the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and calls for a referendum to be held for the people of Papua and West Papua.
A demonstration was also held in Denpasar by a group calling themselves the People’s Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights (Ardham). Made up of the Association of Catholic Students (PMKRI), the Bali Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Bali), the Bali Legal Aid and Human Rights Association (PBHI Bali) and the Bali alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI Bali), they called for and end to mass dismissals and labour contract systems.
An action by workers in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung on Wednesday April 30 also proceeded in an orderly fashion and was joined not just workers, but farm labourers and students also. The action, which was cantered at the Gedung Sate building complex, was joined by around 3,000 workers from the National Workers Union (SPN).
Four other labour organisations including the West Java Indonesian Labour Union Confederation (Gaspermindo), the West Java Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI), the Association of Concerned Labour Youth (PPMP) and the May 1 Commemoration Committee, chose to hold a protest action on earlier on Wednesday, which was also joined by around 3,000 workers.
The main demands being articulated were similar to last year – the abolition of contract labour systems and an end to outsourcing. They also called for decent wages and a reduction in the price of basic commodities. According to Gaspermindo chairperson Bambang Eka, out the union’s 50,000 members, 50 percent are contract labourers.
Similar demands were also articulated by 500 workers from various different trade unions in the North Sumatra city of Banda Lampung who held a march from the Adipura Monument in the centre of the city to the shopping centre on Jl. Kartini. The action, which was guarded by officers from the Banda Lampung municipal police, was then continued in front of the Tanjungkarang train station.
Demonstrations commemorating May Day were also held in the South Sumatra city of Palembang where scores of protesters held speeches at the Fountain Roundabout followed by a march to the South Sumatra Regional House of Representatives building.
A number of different groups joined the protest including the National Student Front (FMN), the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi), the Palembang Legal Aid Foundation and the Indonesian Farmers Union (SPI). The protesters brought effigies symbolising capitalist forces such as the World Trade Organisation and the United State.
Thousands of workers in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar also called for the abolition of labour contract systems as well as the revocation of laws that fail to side with workers, the nationalisation of mining assets and a reduction in the price of basic commodities. The action was joined by a number of organisations involved in advocacy for workers including the Peoples Challenge Front of Struggle (FPRM) and the Association of Workers and People for Nationalisation (PBRN). (A14/A07/APA/BEN/LSD/WAD/HLN/NAR)
[Translated by James Balowski.]