Worker and student rally in Bekasi demands decent wages, slams fuel price hike

Solidarity Net – November 21, 2014
Students rally in Jakarta against fuel price hikes - November 18, 2014 (Metro Sulawesi)
Students rally in Jakarta against fuel price hikes - November 18, 2014 (Metro Sulawesi)

Mochammad Arifin, Cikarang – A day after the government announced an increase in fuel (BBM) prices, on Tuesday November 18 around 200 workers held a long-march from Gate 10 in the Jababeka 2 area of South Cikarang to the Bekasi regent’s office.

The workers came from the Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle (GSPB) and the Indonesian Workers Federation of Struggle (FPBI). Students from the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan) also joined the action to express their solidarity with workers.

The 10 kilometre march towards the Bekasi regent’s office began at 10am and was enlivened by speeches inviting people to reject the fuel price hike and support a 50 percent increase in the minimum wage. Upon arriving at Delta Mas, the protesters received news that not one Bekasi government official would be able to meet with the workers.

“Bekasi government officials couldn’t meet with workers because it coincided with the 12th West Java Porda (Regional Sports Week). This is an example of the government failing to side with workers”, said one of the speakers.

The protesters halted in the vicinity of the Delta Mas shopping district located not far from the regent’s office. There speeches were given by representatives of the organisations involved in the rally.

“As students who will later go on to become academics, students will also become workers or employees and will also feel the [effect] of this low wage system. Students will also experience the difficulties of meeting the monthly necessities of life because of these low wages. So it is appropriate if students also fully support the demand for wage increases and a decent wage”, said Pembebasan leader Moken Taufik.

According to Taufik, education in Indonesia should be free and of good quality so that workers’ children can enjoy the best possible education.

GSPB advocate Ata Bu said in a speech that the fuel price hike is evidence that the administration of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla do not side with the poor.

“The current administration does not want the Indonesian people to be prosperous because they have increased fuel prices. Likewise with the Bekasi regional government who have yet to provide an explanation about increases to the Bekasi minimum wage for 2015. Local governments place more importance on activities with little or no meaning for improving the ordinary people’s welfare, just like the West Java regional government”, said Ata in a speech.

Ata also said that workers must continue to fight for the broadest possible democracy for workers and the ordinary people. There are signs that democracy is being driven back, the impact of which will be to narrow workers’ room to make demands. The government and employers use the security forces and thugs to attack worker actions.

“Wage negotiations, which have been moved to the East Cikarang sub-district head’s offices where there is a mass organisation base that has a history of thuggery against workers, is a form of intimidation against workers”, explained Ata.

[Translated by James Balowski.]