Indonesian workers want share in boom
JAKARTA - Agence France-Presse
About 20,000 Indonesian workers occupy Jakarta’s main toll road in Bekasi during a protest to demand a minimum wage increase in this January pnoto. AFP photoFor years big-name manufacturers including Honda, Samsung and Nike have quietly harvested profits from factories in Indonesia, where wages are even lower than in China or India. Now, Indonesian workers are hitting back with a wave of industrial strikes, demanding a bigger chunk of profits in one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies.
In the latest major strike factories on the outskirts of Jakarta, producing car parts, electronics and big-brand trainers, fell silent on January 27, when more than 20,000 workers walked off the job.
Demanding a minimum wage increase, the Bekasi-based workers blocked a toll road to the capital.
As industrial action spreads across the vast archipelago of 240 million people, workers realize the more disruptive their protests, the more likely they are to be heard.
Factories in the Bekasi zone make products for global car, electronics and fashion firms, churning out $4.5 billion in goods a year, government figures show. The Bekasi workers were enraged after a court annulled a provincial minimum wage increase from 1.29 million rupiah ($143) per month to 1.49 million rupiah ($165).
After the workers hit the streets, the governor reissued the wage increase that same night.
The government, celebrating a record $20 billion in foreign investment last year, is keen to keep a lid on industrial action that could scare away investors.
The Indonesian Employers Association argues that quick wage hikes could do just that.
“If wages go up that quickly, foreign investors in several industries might start looking elsewhere,” warned Franky Sibarani, the association’s secretary-general.