Acehnese workers commemorate May Day with demands for fair wages, foreign worker concerns

Kumparan News – May 1, 2018
ABA workers commemorate May Day in Banda Aceh - May 1, 2018 (Kumparan)
ABA workers commemorate May Day in Banda Aceh - May 1, 2018 (Kumparan)

Protesters from the Aceh Labour Alliance (ABA) took part in an action commemorating International Labour Day or May Day during which they demanding that workers be paid the minimum wage and raised concerns about companies employing foreign workers (TKA).

Representatives of the different groups, who had gathered in front of the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, took turns in giving speeches.

Those who took part in the action, whether they were journalists, companies or institutions, brought banners with protests against the Acehnese government.

In a speech ABA chairperson Syaiful Mar said that Acehnese workers still do not enjoy prosperity adding that workers are often forced to work overtime but many are still paid less than the regional minimum wage (UMP).

Syaiful said that even though the regional government has already set the UMP at 2.5 million rupiah a month, workers are still paid below this standard at between 500,000 and 1 million rupiah a month.

“Both companies as well as agencies pay their employees below the set rate. How can the Acehnese people be prosperous, meanwhile the performance demanded is more that what is given”, he shouted.

Syaiful revealed that over the last 10 years wages have not kept up with the reasonable cost of living index (KHL). For workers, wages are only enough to cover their needs for three weeks. In addition to this liberalisation has been pursued in the workplace in the form of contract labour and outsourcing.

The politics of low wages has been perpetuated through Government Regulation 78/2015 on Wages, modern slavery, contract labour systems and outsourcing, which are not in accordance with the law.

“[Aceh] Qanun Number 7/2014 [bylaw] on Labour has yet to be implemented effectively because it is not supported by technical regulations in the form of a gubernatorial regulation”, he said.

According to Syaiful, the politics of low wages being pursued by the current government has resulted in restrictions on the right to form trade unions and arbitrary sackings which disregard government regulations and weaken the protection afforded to Acehnese workers.

“Limited job opportunities must also be addressed by the government in order to guarantee the creation of employment opportunities for the unemployed work force. Not instead giving free reign and concessions to foreign workers, above all to those who do not have the skills to work in Indonesia through this presidential regulation [Number 20/2018 on Foreign Workers] which undermines the rights of local workers”, he said.

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the report was Peringati May Day, Buruh di Aceh Tuntut Kenaikan UMP yang Adil.]