Indonesian police arrest 27 after violent wage protests

BATAM, INDONESIA (BNO NEWS) — At least 27 people have been arrested after two consecutive days of violent protesters in the Indonesian province of Riau Islands, police said on Saturday. Around 20 people were injured.

Police said that 27 people were arrested in connection with the violent wage demonstrations which rocked the industrial zone of Batam. Workers took to the streets on Wednesday to demand that the local wage council immediately decide on the minimum wage for next year, following a lengthy deadlock between employers and the workers’ union.

During the demonstrations, protesting workers clashed with local police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowds. According to medical reports, at least 20 people were injured during the clashes, including four workers who were injured by rubber bullets.

The violence resumed on Thursday morning when workers and police officers hurled rocks at each other outside the mayor’s office in Batam. Police once again fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, the Jakarta Globe reported.

Later on Thursday, authorities in Batam agreed to a more substantial increase in the city’s minimum wage for next year. Sahat Sinurat, the Manpower and Transmigration Ministry’s director of industrial disputes, said that after lengthy negotiations, all sides have agreed to peg the minimum wage to the Reasonable Living Cost Index (KHL).

“Initially, there was disagreement about the monthly minimum wage,” Sahat said, as quoted by the Jakarta Globe. “Apindo [the Indonesian Employers Association] wanted it set at Rp 1.26 million [$138], but the workers wanted Rp 1.72 million [$189]. This is what caused the rioting.”

As a result, the minimum wage next year will be Rp 1.32 million ($145) a month, less than what workers had been demanding but more than what had been proposed initially. The minimum wage this year is Rp 1.18 million ($129) a month.

Also on Thursday, thousands of workers in the largely industrial area of Bekasi in the province of West Java took to the streets in a peaceful demonstration to demand a higher minimum wage. Earlier this week, a massive strike was averted in Jakarta after the wage council agreed to increase the minimum wage.

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