Protesting workers pin hopes on Prabowo’s Red and White Coalition

Solidarity Net – November 28, 2014
MPBI rally in Central Jakarta - Undated (KSPI)
MPBI rally in Central Jakarta - Undated (KSPI)

Adela Eka Putra Marza – After expressing their disagreement several days ago over the setting of the Jakarta minimum provincial wage (UMP) for 2015, which has declined relative to the value of the rupiah against the US dollar, on Wednesday November 26 workers finally took to the streets to convey their demand for a revision of the UMP.

The thousands of workers who came from the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI) and the Confederation of Prosperity Labour Unions (KSBSI), which are part of the Indonesian Trade Union Council (MPBI), held huge protest actions at a number of sites.

The workers began the action at Jl. Perintis Kemerdekaan in East Jakarta by blockading access from Pulogadung in the direction of Senen. They then moved off towards the Wiyoto Wiyono toll road and closed of a length of road from Cawang to Pulomas, the inner-city toll road. However because they were blocked by police, the workers quickly left the toll road and moved to Jl. Letjen Suprapto in Cempaka Putih.

Following this, a convoy of workers riding motorcycles blockaded roads in the vicinity of Farmers Monument in Central Jakarta by parking their motorcycles in the middle of the street. They also gave speeches in front of the Jakarta provincial Labour and Transmigration Office voicing their demand for a revision to the Jakarta 2015 UMP and setting fire to a bier and a replica of a shrouded corpse.

“We demand an UMP of 3.5 million rupiah [a month] like Bekasi, specifically Karawang”, shouted one of the speakers during a protest action in front of the Jakarta city hall as reported by the news portal

The Jakarta 2015 UMP was set at 2.7 million rupiah a month, in accordance with the Jakarta reasonable living cost index (KHL). Workers however, who say the UMP was set too low, are demanding an UMP of 3.2 million or 500,000 rupiah more than the KHL. In Karawang regency and Bekasi city in West Java [where the cost of living is lower], the regional and municipal minimum wage for 2015 was set at 2.9 million, slightly higher than Jakarta.

Dissatisfied, the workers continued the protest in front of the Jakarta Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) where the DPRD deputy speaker [from former Suharto general Prabowo Subianto’s] Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) M. Taufik received the workers and invited 15 representatives to discuss the issue. A short time later, Taufik came out and made a speech declaring his support for the workers. He promised to immediately discuss the Jakarta 2015 UMP with the relevant parties.

“I respect that you are conveying your wishes peacefully. Earlier we held a discussion with your representatives and tomorrow we will invite the wage council to discuss what your wishes are. I am sure that there is a good way [to achieve] your wishes. [I’m] certain there is a solution to everything if you’re willing to discuss it”, said the chairperson of Gerindra’s Jakarta board of directors to cheers and claps from the workers.

Taufik even said that the workers’ demands for a revision and increase in the 2015 Jakarta UMP was a reasonable request bearing in mind several important factors.

“If I say it’s reasonable it’s because of the effect of the BBM [fuel] price increase has not yet been included (in the calculations), plus there’s also inflation. There are differences in the calculations of the KHL. This is a bit odd because in nearby areas right, the UMP is 2.9 million rupiah [a month]. So we must recalculate it. Perhaps the other day it didn’t include the effect of the BBM increase,” explained Taufik to journalists as quoted by, adding that the UMP needs to be reevaluated.

The action was full of pro-Red and White Coalition (KMP) politics [the coalition of political parties in the House of Representatives (DPR) that backed Prabowo’s presidential bid in July]. Workers also gave their support to the DPR to launch an interpellation motion over the fuel price hike. The president of the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (Aspek), which is part of the KSPSI, Mirah Sumirat clearly articulated this in a speech. Earlier, the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI), a student organisation affiliated with the KMP affiliated Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) also declared its support for the KMP to launch and interpellation motion in the DPR.

Protesters from the MPBI who went to the DPR was also received directly by the chairperson of the DPR’s Commission IV Dede Yusuf from the National Mandate Party (PAN) faction, which is part of the KMP. Speaking from atop the command vehicle, he promised to meet with the West Java, Banten and Jakarta provincial wage councils to reevaluate the minimum municipal wage (UMK) and the DPR’s Commission III to request an explanation from the national police chief and the West Java police chief over recent cases of repressive actions by police against workers in Bekasi.

The KSPI is one of the trade unions that supported Prabowo in the July presidential elections. Meanwhile the KSBSI and the KSPSI supported winning candidate President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, although this support has waned after Widodo failed to appoint a labour representative as a minister in his new cabinet.

Following a split at a congress in 2013, the three labour confederations have now reached an agreement and plan to hold a national strike on December 10 and 11. In the future it is likely that there will be frequent labour actions driven by the KSPI with mutual support from KMP political forces in the parliament.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the report was Protes UMK 2015, Buruh Titip Aspirasi pada KMP.]