Massive labour rally in Jakarta demands 15% wage rise, Jobs Law cancelation

CNN Indonesia – August 10, 2023
Workers from Labour Party and KSPSI march through Central Jakarta – August 10, 2023 (CNN)

Thousands of workers from the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Union (KSPSI) and the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance Confederation (KASBI) rallied in front of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) building on Jalan MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta on Thursday August 10.

The workers, who had been gathering at the ILO building since 11.40 am, took up a number of demands during the rally including revoking the Omnibus Law on Job Creation and calling for a 15 percent wage rise in 2024.

Some arrived at the ILO building by bus while others came on motorbikes. The workers wearing red clothing were from KASBI, while those wearing blue were from the KSPSI.

They also brought banners, some of which were laid out on the main road, containing messages opposing the Job Creation Law. Others brought an effigy of a rat wearing a tie and carrying a briefcase with pictures of money.

One of the representatives from the KASBI Greater Jakarta Trade Union Federation, Ahmad Taufik, said that they are centring the action on Jalan Thamrin through to Jalan Sudirman. "The action will unite there. Along the length of Jalan Sudirman-Thamrin", said Taufik at the location.

Meanwhile Million Workers Action Alliance (AASB) Coordinating Presidium Chairperson Jumhur Hidayat, who is also the Chairperson of the KSPSI Central Leadership Board, said that they will pack the streets from Jalan MH Thamrin to Sudirman. "We'll fill (the streets), Yes", he said at the location.

Following the rally on Jalan MH Thamrin, the workers had planned to march to the location of main action at the nearby Horse Statue on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat where they intend to continue rallying until midnight.

But Hidayat said that they will have to cancel a long-march to the Constitutional Court (MK) because Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat in the direction of the court has been closed off by police.

Blocked by police

Another group of workers meanwhile was detained in front of the Metro Jaya regional police headquarters on Jalan Gatot Subroto in South Jakarta as they were heading north towards the Horse Statue.

They were blocked by police officers on duty at the location and prohibited from crossing the Semanggi interchange in the direction of the Horse Statue. The police even put up a large sign reading "Apologies, Forbidden to Cross" on the turn in the direction of the interchange.

In total, two command vehicles and dozens of busses carrying workers were held up until 12.10 pm.

Several of the protesters got out of their vehicles to ask the police to open the road for them, while a speaker riding on top of the command vehicle called on police to let them through. "Don't be pushed around by the police, the police are trying to thwart us", said the speaker.

As a result, the flow of traffic on Jalan Gatot Subroto in the direction of Slipi became gridlocked and even vehicles trying to leave the Metro Jaya police headquarters were unable to exit.

After protracted negotiations, at 12.35 the police finally allowed the workers to cross the Semanggi interchange and proceed North along Jalan MH Thramrin.

Earlier, Metro Jaya spokesperson Senior Commissioner Trunoyudo Wisnu Andiko said that as many as 6,612 joint personnel had been deployed to provide security for the labour demonstration today.

"Reinforcements will be deployed in the context of serving and escorting [the protesters], namely a total of 6,612 [personnel] from the Polri [National Police], the TNI [Indonesian military] and the Pemda [regional government]", Andiko told reporters.

City Hall action

Also joining the action were workers from the AASB and the Labour Movement with the People (Gebrak), who arrived at the Jakarta City Hall at around 1.30 pm before moving off toward the Horse Statue and the nearby Presidential Palace.

Along with the command vehicle, the protesters then blockaded Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan on the southern side of the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta with dozens of motorcycles.

"We will go together towards Jokowi's [President Joko Widodo] Presidential Palace. Before that, we will fight first for Jakarta's workers, we are asking for a 15 percent wage rise [in 2024]", said one of the participants speaking from the command vehicle.

"KASBI together with the Labour Movement with the People (Gebrak) will rally at the State Palace. Revoke the Omnibus Law on Job Creation", said KASBI President Nining Elitos when contacted by CNN Indonesia on Wednesday August 2.

In addition to calling for the Jobs Law to be revoked and a 15 percent wage rise, Gebrak also urged the government to revoke other laws that they say conflict with the Constitution including the Mineral and Coal Mining Law (UU Minerba), the revised criminal code (KUHP), the law on the construction of a new capital city in East Kalimantan (UU IKN), the Agricultural Law, the Draft Law on the National Education System (RUU Sisdiknas) and revisions to the Information and Electronic Transaction Law (UU ITE).

They also asked the government to revoke Labour Ministry Regulation (Permenaker) Number 5/2023 on adjustments to working hours and wages for labor-intensive industries and that the government stop agrarian liberalisation through land theft and the land bank policy.

The AASB meanwhile called for the recently enacted Health Law and the law on reinforcing the finance sector to be revoked and called for the realisation of life-long universal social welfare (JS3H).

Labour Party rally

Yesterday, a similar action was held by the Labour Party. Labour Party President Said Iqbal said they were demanded that the Job Creation Law be revoked along with the recently enacted Health Law and a 15 percent increase in the minimum wage.

Iqbal said that Indonesia is now classified by the World Bank as a middle-income country with a gross per-capita income of US$4,500 or around 67.5 million rupiah per year.

"[We're] asking for a 15 percent wage rise because Indonesia is already included as a middle-income country. The country's income is in the middle to upper grouping. Per-capita income is $US4,500 per month [sic, per year] or 67.5 million rupiah", he said at the Horse Statue monument in Central Jakarta yesterday.

Concrete barriers and razor wire

The protest action in front of the ILO building and along the length of Jalan MH Thamrin continued until around 1 pm, with some of the workers giving speeches from the command vehicle while others sat on the road listening.

At 2.20 pm, the of workers on Jalan MH Thamrin had begun to approach the Horse Statue west of the National Monument. Meanwhile the length of road along Jalan MH Thamrin towards Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat and the Constitutional Court had been closed off by police.

By early evening the situation began to heat up with demonstrators near the Horse Statue at the Jalan MH Thamrin and Jalan Merdeka Barat intersection setting fire to wood. They then began moving in the direction of the concrete and razor wire barriers put up by police in front of the Horse Statue. The police meanwhile, remained behind the barriers.

At 7.15 pm the demonstrators began trying to get past the concrete barriers and razor wire in front of the Horse Statue. Several workers succeeded in climbing over the barriers while others jumped up and down on the concrete barriers until several were knocked down and damaged. They also set fire to plastic orange road barriers thrown on top of the concrete barriers.

In addition to this, several protesters could seen throwing wood and plastic bottles on to the barriers which they also set fire to.

While the demonstrators were trying to demolish the barriers, police officers could be seen chanting from spiritual readings. Other officers meanwhile made an appeal though a megaphone for the demonstrators to disband and behave in an orderly fashion.

As of 10.12 pm, the protesting workers near the Horse Statue had still not disbanded, although no more speeches were being given and several of the workers were relaxing and sitting around.

KASBI General Chairperson Sunarno emphasised that they would remain at the location and continue the action until the government responded to their demands.

"[We're] still near the Horse Statue traffic circle. Comrades are still holding their ground, still waiting for a response from the government", Sunarno told CNN Indonesia at the location.

Longest and largest

Organisers of today's demonstration claim that this was the longest and biggest workers demonstration.

"This is extraordinary, the longest and biggest demonstration of workers tonight. Tonight, Praise be to Allah, labour unity will begin to be established because indeed we have never make an issue over little things because our focus is to reject the Job Creation Law", said one of the speakers from the command vehicle at the Horse Statue.

The workers finally began disbanding at around 11 pm. They said that they appreciated that the police did not attempt to forcibly disband those who had stayed on. "Praise be to Allah, those that wanted to forcibly remove us did not do so", said the speaker.

Public Facility Maintenance Agency (PPSU) officers could be seen starting to clean up the rubbish left over from the action. The police meanwhile remained on guard in the vicinity as the workers moved off.

Meanwhile the area along Jalan MH Thamrin in the direction of the Horse Statue that had previously been occupied by workers had been sterilised by police and number of tactical vehicle could be seen parked in the area, including three Barracuda vehicles, one water cannon and an equipment transport truck.

Troops from the paramilitary police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) were also on standby on Jalan MH Thamrin near the Sarinah intersection, with several carrying batons and tear-gas launchers.

It is not known if the security personal have been deployed to disband the protesting workers still at the Horse Statue.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski based on six articles by CNN Indonesia on August 10. The original title of the lead article was "Massa Buruh Tumpah di MH Thamrin, Sempat Tertahan di Polda Metro Jaya".]