May Day rally in Yogyakarta calls for decent wages, housing for workers

Tribune – May 1, 2019
Yogyakarta Labour Alliance May Day rally at Zero Kilometre – May 1, 2019 (Tribune)
Yogyakarta Labour Alliance May Day rally at Zero Kilometre – May 1, 2019 (Tribune)

I Wahyu Setiawan Nugroho, Yogyakarta – A joint action organised by the 2019 May Day Action Committee has again called for decent wages for workers in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta.

The action, which was held at the Zero Kilometre Point in front of the Central Post Office in Yogyakarta city, also articulated several other demands including calling for the annulment of Government Regulation Number 78/2015 on wage increases and decent housing for workers.

According to May Day Action Committee spokesperson Irsyad Ade Irawan, if the annual wage increase in 2019 uses the PP 78/2015 as a reference, the reality will be that wages will be very far from what can be said to be decent.

The regency minimum wage (UMK) in Yogyakarta province is less than 2 million rupiah per month with Yogyakarta city having the highest wage of 1,846,400 rupiah per month and Gunung Kidul regency the lowest with 1,571,000 rupiah.

“With a nominal UMK of this size working communities will still find it difficult to reach the Reasonable Living Cost Index. So the working community is forced to find additional sources of income, even borrowing money to meet their basic needs”, said Irawan.

According to Irawan, the Reasonable Living Cost Index (KHL) for Yogyakarta province according to a survey by the May Day Action Committee in April averages 2,200,000 rupiah a month.

During the action the protesters also demanding a minimum sectoral wage (UMS) for Yogyakarta, the lack of which said Irawan, has worsened the situation for the working community.

Yet there are five sectors that excel in Yogyakarta province including processing, plantation, forestry and fishing industries, the accommodation and food and beverage sector, construction, the bulk and retail trade and car and motorcycle maintenance and repair.

“Meanwhile the negative impact of the low wages set by the Yogyakarta provincial government is that many employees or workers are still unable to own a decent house of their own”, he said.

Many employees and workers are also disqualified as tenants for boarding houses or rental accommodation.

Even though the government has enacted a housing programs for workers, said Irawan, employees and workers, particularly those that live in Yogyakarta city, still cannot afford them.

“Out of a wage which is less than 1.7 million they have to use 800,000 rupiah [a month] to pay off the loan. Meaning that only 900,000 remains to cover other needs. And this amount makes it impossible to achieve a decent quality of life”, he explained.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Selain Upah Layak dan Cabut PP 78 Tahun 2015, Ini Tuntutan Buruh di Yogyakarta dalam May Day 2019”.]