Several different locations in Central Jakarta were rocked by demonstrations on May 1 as tens of thousands of workers commemorated May Day or International Labour Day. Protest actions took place at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout, in front of the State Palace, the House of Representatives building and Proclamation Monument.
Workers raised a number of concerns including opposing labour contract system and outsourcing. Similar actions also took place in a number of other cities in Indonesia including Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya and Malang.
“The government has failed to produce polices that support workers”, said Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) public relations coordinator Nining Elitos at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. As a consequence, the rate of unemployment and poverty continues to climb. “The state is responsible for protecting workers, jobs and proving a decent standard of living”, said Nining.
Journalists from the Independent Alliance of Journalists (AJI) also took part in the May Day action. AJI Jakarta chairperson Jajang Jamaluddin said that they are demanding that journalists’ wages be increased to 4.1 million rupiah a month. “We are also calling for improved working conditions, pensions and insurance guarantees”, he said.
The atmosphere at the Proclamation Monument was even livelier. Aside from local workers, migrant worker representatives from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Philippines also joined the protest. “We are calling for our friends in Indonesia to obtain the same rights as all domestic partners everywhere”, said Ika Irwaniati from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Trade Union (SBMI).
In the West Java provincial capital of Bandung, Dikdik, a labour activist from the National Student Front (FMN) said that the oppression of workers is currently being worsened by the widespread use of employment agents in the recruitment process.
Dikdik said that by depositing 1-1.5 million rupiah with a broker – who is usually a thug or village official – a jobseeker can be accepted for work as a contract factory worker without having to pass a test. After three months however, “The company can just sack a contract labourer arbitrarily”, he said. According to Dikdik, these kinds of practices are still commonplace in the Bandung industrial areas of Rancaekek and Majalaya.
In the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, East Java ABM coordinator Jamaludin highlighted systems of contract labour and outsourcing, which he said are inhuman and are becoming progressively more rampant. According to Jamaludin, there are almost no companies that do not employ these systems. Because of this therefore, “We are calling on the government to immediately put a stop to practices that impoverish workers”, he said during a demonstration in front of the East Java governor’s office.
Similar demands were made by Nanang Setyono, the chairperson of the Semarang National Trade Union (SPN) chairperson and the Agastani, the public relations officer for the Malang People’s Struggle Forum (FPR).
[Slightly abridge translation by James Balowski.]