JAKARTA: Hundreds of thousands of factory workers went on strike across Indonesia on Wednesday demanding better pay and job security as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy booms.
Police estimated around 750,000 workers took to the streets for the one-day walkout in at least 12 provinces, while unions said more than two million took part. In the industrial city of Bekasi west of the capital Jakarta around 60,000 workers turned out to protest, carrying banners calling on the government to “Raise Our Salaries” and “Stop Outsourcing Contracts”. “We are calling for an end to the use of contract workers and a rise in the minimum wage,” Nining Elitos, from the Indonesian Confederation of Workers’ Unions, told AFP.
“Today’s strike is a warning to the government to act quickly and firmly to respond to what workers want. Don’t blame us if workers lose patience and disrupt airports and toll roads.” National police spokesman Agus Rianto said that workers from more than 700 companies were believed to be taking part in the strike and 35,000 police and military personnel had been deployed to prevent unrest. Indonesia’s economy grew 6.5 percent in 2011 and attracted record foreign direct investment of $20 billion, with its rich natural resources and a growing number of consumers among its huge population of 240 million.
Yet Indonesian factory workers remain some of the lowest-paid in Asia, often earning less than their counterparts in China or India. Workers in Jakarta this year won a minimum-wage hike to 1.53 million rupiah ($160) a month.