Friday, November 27, 2015

Four Day National Strike To Reject Unfair Wage Regulation

Banner: National Strike to Reject Government Regulation 78
Unions in Indonesia held a four day national strike last week, 24-27 November 2015. Not dampened by the state repression in October, workers are still standing strong in demanding the repeal of Government Regulation No. 78 / 2015 on Wages.

Under the new regulation the minimum wage will rise each year by a set amount determined by a formula of inflation and economic growth. Based on this formula wages in each region will not be increased by more than 11.5 percent in 2016.

Workers and their unions are outraged by this regulation as it does not take into account the cost of living. Further still, it attempts to weaken unions by no longer involving them in wage negotiations. Unions are calling for a rise in the minimum wage of at least 25 percent.

A worker referring to the minimum wage in the city of Bandung asked “how can a worker with a family meet their basic requirements with a wage that is only 2 million rupiah [~$200 a month]?”

The national strike saw workers across the country walk out of factories and industrial areas and march on government offices. Strikes and demonstrations took place in Tanggerang, Pulogadung, Cakung, Sunter, Tanjung Priok, Bekasi, Cikarang, Karawang, Bogor, Purwakarta, Jawa Tengah, Jawa Timur, Sumatra Utara, and Batam. 



Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia and Hong Kong also sent photos of their support for the protests.
'Indonesian Migrant Workers Support the Action to Repeal Regulation 78/2015. Increase Workers' Wages, Oppose Militarism and Criminalisation'
Regional governments are under pressure from the national government to use the new wage formula in determining district wages, but strong workers’ resistance could force them to defy the regulation.

In Bekasi, an area known for its militant worker movement, a member of the district parliament, Nurdin Muhidin, addressed the rally of striking workers. The Bekasi district government issued a letter to the Mayor of Bekasi last month expressing objection to the use of the new regulation, arguing that it was unlawful not to include unions in determining wage increases. But the Bekasi Mayor had disregarded the letter and set the new district minimum wage using the formula.

Nurdin joined the march of workers through the industrial area. However, the rally was broken up by police. Under another recent regulation demonstrations are prohibited in areas deemed national ‘vital objects’, such as industrial areas. This deeply restricts workers’ right to take action. The police arrested four workers and Nurdin. 

Nurdin and union leaders leading the march in Bekasi
Police move to break up the rally

Workers in other areas also faced repression. In Tangerang several workers were injured by thugs who attacked the rally. Thugs in Indonesia are often hired by employers who work with the state to repress workers’ demonstrations.

At a press conference on 26 November, unions stated 42 workers had been arrested in Indonesia during protests against the wage regulation. Police and thugs had also beaten up workers and forced them back to work when they tried to walk out of factories to join the strike. The unions called on President Jokowi to take responsibility for the repression.

Employers hung banners to threaten workers. This one states: If you strike, your wage is cut... What will your wife and children eat?

The national strike has shown workers will continue to fight the new wage regulation. However, if they are to win, the movement will need to be strengthened. In some areas production continued. Even at unionised factories some workers did not take strike action but only joined the demonstrations once their shift ended. The threats from employers and the state repression make it difficult for workers to take action. But unions must also be united when calling for strike action and work to make it a success. If the movement is united and strengthened it can win.  

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