Tens of thousands rally across Indonesia for May Day


Jakarta – In some of the largest demonstrations seen in recent years, tens of thousands took part in May Day rallies across Indonesia calling for higher wages and an end to contract labour and opposing fuel price increases.

According to the national police, there were rallies in 17 provinces, including Jakarta and the other five provinces in Java, Riau, North Sumatra, South Sumatra, Bali, North Maluku, Central Sulawesi, South Sulawesi, Jambi, Gorontalo, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and West Kalimantan. The largest rally, in Jakarta, involved an estimated 36,000 people. North Sumatra had an estimated 25,000 protesters, while East Java and West Java had about 30,000 and 22,000, respectively. Despite the size and militancy of the protests, police said there were no major incidents and demonstrations proceeded peacefully.

Bali and outer islands

Antara News reported that scores of workers from the Unity for a People’s Independent Nation (Perkasa) rallied at the Balinese provincial government office in Denpasar demanding the formation of an independent labour supervisory committee, saying the many labour problems in Bali are a time bomb that could explode at any time. Perkasa also called for the nationalisation of foreign mining companies, an end to contract labour and a standardised reasonable living cost index (KHL) to calculate minimum wages.

Workers in Batam, Riau province, called for an end to outsourcing, the implementation of a national social welfare system and revisions to the KHL. “Let alone health care or other guarantees, there isn’t even any job security under outsourcing systems. We demand that the government realise the promise to abolish this system”, Batam Indonesian Metalworkers Trade Union chairperson Yanit told Kompas.com.

May Day rally in Yogyakarta – May 1, 2012

Thousands rallied in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, where workers from the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union Federation blockaded the road leading to the port. In speeches they called for the port management to act against companies using non-Makassar Port Cooperative labour, wages increases and rest facilities and the abolition of contract labour and outsourcing. Metro TV said that students also held an action at the Makassar flyover in solidarity with the workers.

In Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, workers gathered at the governor’s office, demanding welfare improvements. “We want the government to abolish the outsourcing system, which tends to cause losses on the part of the workers”, rally coordinator Lalu Wirasakti told the Jakarta Post, saying that the system results in many companies paying below the regional minimum wage.

Detik News reported that several hundred workers in Samarinda rallied at the East Kalimantan governor’s office, where they called on the government to increase the provincial minimum wage, saying it was the lowest in Kalimantan, abolish outsourcing and make May 1 a national holiday.

Sumatra and Aceh

The Aceh Post reported that workers in the Achenese capital of Banda Aceh commemorated May Day with a convoy starting at the Raya Baiturrahman Mosque, stopped off at the Aceh governor’s office and ended at the Aceh House of Representatives, where they called on lawmakers immediately to ratify a by-law on labour.

A rally in the South Sumatra city of Lampung ended in a clash with public order agency officers (Satpol PP), leaving one student injured. The incident began when hundreds of people from the Lampung Peoples Movement (GRL) gathered at the governor’s office, where Satpol PP had set up a security line. Protesters said the clash broke out after a Satpol PP threatened demonstrators with a bayonet. The GRL – which is made up of 14 labour, student and farmer organisations – called for the abolition of contract labour and outsourcing and increases to the Lampung minimum wage. “The government must close down companies that channel outsourced labour because it harms workers”, labour activist Rifki Indrawan told Detik News.

In Palembang, South Sumatra, workers from the Carrefour Indonesia Trade Union held a theatrical action demanding an end to union bashing and contract labour and the implementation of a joint working agreement. Action coordinator Fido told Media Indonesia that many Carrefour employees had been penalised, suspended or sacked by the French-owned retail outlet.

Java and Jakarta

In the West Java capital of Bandung, thousands of workers from the from the All Indonesia Trade Union (SBSI) 1992, the National Trade Union Confederation and the Solidarity Alliance for Labour Struggle rallied at the governor’s office, opposing increases to fuel prices and electricity rates and demanding an end to contract labour and union busting. “Make May 1 a national holiday. We also demand a reasonable national wage to be given to all workers”, SBSI 1992 chairperson Ajat Sudrajat told Detik News.

A report by Detik News said that around 500 workers from the Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance (KASBI) blockaded roads in front of the Tangerang City labour office with hundreds of motorbikes and five large busses. After failing to meet with the head of the labour office, the protesters moved off to link up with other Tangerang workers protesting in nearby Jakarta.

Republika Online reported that around 100,000 workers from a trade union alliance comprising the All Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI), the Confederation of the All-Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPSI), the Confederation of Prosperity Labour Unions (KSBSI), the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions (KSPI), the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy, the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions and the Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI) rallied in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

After demonstrating for around an hour, the protesters moved off to the nearby Bung Karno Sports Stadium where the KSPSI, the KSBSI and the KSPI declared the formation of a new Indonesian Workers and Employees Council (MPBI) and three council presidents. “It is hoped that the MPBI will become an organisational umbrella to bring about prosperity for Indonesian workers and the people of Indonesia”, KSBI president Mudhofir was quoted as saying by Tribune News. Speaking before tens of thousands of workers, the council said it would fight for universal health care, pensions for all workers, state subsidies for workers and their families, for May 1 to become a national holiday and for the abolition of outsourcing.

Hundreds of journalists from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) used May Day to demand welfare improvements during a demonstration at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, to which they brought a huge effigy of an octopus symbolising the tentacles of mass media conglomerates.

“The situation is not favourable for creating a healthy journalistic climate in Indonesia; journalists’ poor living standards make them increasingly susceptible to the temptation of bribes in any form from sources”, AJI Jakarta chairperson Umar Idris told Detik News, adding that the threat of dismissal is also undermining journalists’ freedom of expression and the media.

Hundreds of workers from KASBI demonstrated at the Klaten Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) in Central Java, demanding welfare and the abolition of contract labour. Action coordinator Akbar T. told the Solo Post that contract labour and outsourcing are workers’ principal enemy and the main reason for the lack of job security and must be abolished.

Hundreds of workers in the East Java city of Malang called for May 1 to be designated a national holiday. “This is a non-negotiable request from the workers”, Indonesian Workers Solidarity Struggle chairperson Hafidz Lutfi told Kompas.com. Lutfi said that workers are expected to work for the interests of company owners yet their wages are minimal. He added that they are calling for the government to review the 2003 labour law because it allows companies to employ contract workers who can be easily and arbitrarily dismissed. “That is the inhuman nature of Law Number 13. It totally oppresses workers”, he said.

In January the Constitutional Court declared unlawful a section in the 2003 Labour Law that allows contract labour and outsourcing. However, the Department of Labour has failed to enact a decree to formalise this, allowing companies to ignore the ruling and continue replacing permanent workers with contract labour. Of the 33 million workers in the formal sector, only 35% are now permanent, a decline from 76% prior to the law coming into effect. The remaining 70% of the workforce is employed in the informal sector, with little or no job security.

Kompas.com reported that around 15,000 workers in Pasuruan, East Java, took to the streets under the banner of the Pasuruan Regency Trade Union Alliance, which is made up of the SPSI, the National Trade Union (SPN) and the Indonesian Muslim Workers Trade Union. Rallying on the East Java coastal highway, the workers called for the abolition of outsourcing, for companies to pay the minimum wage and for the resolution of labour disputes in Pasuruan.

Thousands of workers from the Workers Challenge Movement (Gerbang) rallied at the governor’s office in the Central Java capital of Semarang, having earlier blockaded a road near the Mangkang weigh bridge. The protesters, who came from the SPN, the Kahutindo Trade Union, the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, the People’s Democratic Party and the Indonesian Workers Federation, called for an end to contract labour and outsourcing, a reasonable wage, for May 1 to be declared a national holiday and impartial law enforcement. “If workers are deemed troublesome quick action is taken, but if a company is in the wrong, action takes a long time or [the violation] is even permitted”, Gerbang coordinator Heru Budi Utoyo told Detik News.

Around 200 workers from the SBSI 1992 rallied in the Central Java city of Solo, condemning President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for failing to pay attention to workers’ welfare and manipulating workers for political interests. “Evidence of this is that the government has remained silent on contract labour systems that clearly do not side with workers”, Media Indonesia quoted one of the workers as saying in a speech.

In a separate action, hundreds of workers rallied at the Solo District Court, where they handed over a petition demanding the annulment of Law Number 2/2004 on the resolution of industrial disputes, which they said was extremely detrimental to workers. “My co-workers and I were demanding the right to receive reasonable severance pay but were counter-sued by the company for as much as 2 billion rupiah [US$200,000]. Workers are in a weak position because of Law Number 2/2004 that places workers in a weak position in the civil courts”, a recently dismissed workers told KRjogja.com.

Thousands of workers from across East Java poured into the provincial capital of Surabaya, where they blockaded the road in front of the governor’s office, calling for and end to outsourcing and low wages and for revisions to the KHL and social security. Hery Mardyanto, the head of the FSPMI Surabaya branch, told Media Indonesia that the trade union is asking for a total of 86 KHL components, the most crucial of which is school fees, and coverage of the cost of fuel. Around 50 people from the Federated Indonesian Trade Union Alliance Front also joined the action.

Demonstrators from the SPN, the Islamic Students Association (HMI), the Student Executive Council, the Indonesian National Students Movement and KASBI rallied at the city hall in Tegal, Central Java, demanding welfare improvements, wage rises and an end to outsourcing. Action coordinator Agus Slamet called on the people to have the courage to fight the politics and economics of capitalism, which benefit only employers. “Wherever capitalism springs up, they use the ploy of recruiting contract labour, this clearly does not benefit the working class, this method must be abolished from this country”, Slamet told KRjogja.com.

Viva News reported that around 2000 students and workers from the Indonesian Youth Solidarity Movement, the SBSI 1992 and the Indonesian Student Union blockaded the Polonia Airport in the North Sumatra capital of Medan, which had been cordoned off by police equipped with a water cannon and a Barracuda armoured vehicle. An action was also held in the city’s Independence Square by more than 1000 workers from 12 labour organisations including the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union Federation, the Indonesian Independent Trade Union, the FSPMI, the Indonesian Workers Coalition, the Independence Workers Union, the Indonesian Workers National Front and the Printing and Media Information Trade Union.

Thousands of students and workers marched through the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on May Day in a series of coordinated actions centred on the Malioboro shopping district, the Yogyakarta DPRD and the central post office. Several groups took part, including the Bantul branch of the Indonesian Independent Trade Union Federation, the Yogyakarta Workers Alliance (ABY), the KASBI, the Yogyakarta Special Province Non-Government Organisation Forum, the Yogyakarta People’s Alliance, the People’s Challenge Alliance, the Kemudo Workers Association, the Gendong Workers Association, the Gadjah Mada University Student Executive Council, the HMI and the Indonesian Youth Front for Struggle.

During the march through the Malioboro area, one of the groups held a theatrical action in which four demonstrators played the role of workers with their bodies smeared in red paint and their feet tied to a box made from black cardboard pushing a trishaw carrying an employer. At the Yogyakarta DPRD, another group held a sleep-in to depict a government that “sleeps” instead of paying attention to workers and a “walking backwards” action portraying the degeneration in the quality of ordinary people’s lives.

ABY secretary general Kirnadi said they reject contract labour and outsourcing and criticised companies for muzzling trade unions, some of which were prevented from joining the May Day rally. “Outsourcing systems are a form of modern or new style of slavery, they must be abolished”, Kirnadi was quoted as saying by Detik News.

West Papua

Viva News reported that in West Papua, activists used May Day to demand independence with hundreds of Morning Star flags flown as thousands marched through Manokwari city calling on the government to restore the sovereignty and independence of the Papuan nation. Although flying the Morning Star openly is illegal, police took no action.

The Morning Star was also flown at a protest by around 300 people in Sentani, Jayapura, at the grave of Papuan figure They H. Eluay, who was murdered by the Army’s Kopassus Special Forces in 2001. Backed by troops and a Barracuda armoured vehicle, police moved in and tore down the flags, arresting 13 people.

Police said that the Morning Star was also flown during demonstrations in Biak, Sorong, Jayapura and Jayapura city, in which thousands demanded Papuan independence. Detik News also reported that a member of the Indonesian military was assaulted during a march from Kotaraja towards Jayapura.

[For the latest news and information on Indonesia and West Papua visit http://www.asia-pacific-solidarity.net/. The APSN web site also includes an archive of reports and articles on May Day in Indonesia between 2003 and 2012.]

Direct Action – June 11, 2012

International News & Analysis