Indonesians march for workplace rights

Indonesia commemorates first Labour Day holiday.

By Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

May 13, 2014
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Approximately 100,000 workers took to the streets of Jakarta on May 1st to mark Indonesia's first official Labour Day holiday to call for better wage and compensation packages.

  • Thousands of Indonesian workers march in Jakarta to celebrate the country's first officially recognised Labour Day holiday. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar]

    Thousands of Indonesian workers march in Jakarta to celebrate the country's first officially recognised Labour Day holiday. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar]

A procession of workers marched from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the Presidential Palace, as other pro-labour marches took place simultaneously in Surabaya, West Java, Lampung, Sumatra and other cities.

Last year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) declared Labour Day, otherwise known as May Day or International Workers' Day, would be recognised as a national holiday starting in 2014.

And when the day arrived, the president sent workers his greetings via Twitter.

"May 1st is international Labor Day and Indonesia has chosen to make it a national holiday to honor workers as the heroes of industry," Yudhoyono tweeted, according to the Jakarta Globe.

"The government will continue to develop pro-worker and pro-industry policies, including providing housing, transportation and health care for workers," he said. "The relationship between workers' associations and business associations should be good and close. All sides should 'win'."

Labour's demands

The Confederation of Indonesian Workers' Unions (KSPI) calls for implementation of a 10-point programme to improve nationwide compensation packages. Among its demands, are a 30% minimum wage increase by July 2015, health coverage, public transportation and affordable housing provisions for workers.

"I think President SBY has committed to [helping workers] by acknowledging Labour Day as a national day. However, we want to see more improvements, especially around workers' rights," KSPI chairman Said Iqbal told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"I hope our government will follow up on these demands and that our voices will be heard," Dwi Lasmiati, a 29 year-old worker who marched at the event, told Khabar.

The march is just a beginning, she said.

"Without advocacy and negotiation, I think our demands will only end on the street. I hope there will be more and more people who are aware of what we are fighting for, so every Indonesian worker, who is willing to work hard, can improve their living standards and move out of poverty," Dwi added.

One government official who joined marching workers in Jakarta was Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Dahlan Iskan. He said he had been fighting against a policy of outsourcing government workers.

"I already expressed my disagreement in front of the House of Representatives (DPR)," Dahlan told reporters. "I do think workers should get better welfare each year."

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