Tens of Thousands Protest in Indonesia

Indonesia protest

Workers demand a higher minimum wage and an end to outsourcing as unrest in southeast Asia’s largest economy amplifies.

Al Jazeera, November 22, 2012

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2012/11/2012112253436646925.html

Tens of thousands of workers have gathered outside
the presidential palace in Jakarta in Indonesia,
demanding higher wages, better working conditions
and that more economic growth trickle down to the
working class.

The demonstrations on Thursday come a day after a
governor in the capital Jakarta agreed to raise the
minimum wage by 44 per cent but protesters said
they wanted government to provide better health
care and pensions and wanted to ensure that the
courts do not over turn their decision.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from the
capital, said “tens of thousands of workers have
been marching through the city centre and have
reached the presidential palace  … they have been
demonstrating for weeks for a higher minimum
wage, and they have been demanding to get rid of a
much hated outsourcing policy.

“Basically, government has met these demands over
the past week, now they are here to show they are
not satisfied yet.”

They say that they have an expensive pension fund
and an expensive health scheme, and they want to
get rid of them as well, Vaessen said.

Governor Joko Widodo agreed to lift the minimum
monthly wage in Jakarta to 2.2 million rupiah
($228) from 1.53 million rupiah. In Indonesia, local
authorities set minimum wages for their regions.

Wealth gap

“Workers are demanding better rights because the
gap between the well off and not so well off have
increased in Indonesia”

– Subramananiam Pillay, Journalist

“Workers are demanding better rights because the
gap between the well off and not so well off have
increased in Indonesia,” Subramananiam Pillay, a
journalist based in Jakarta, told Al Jazeera.

“This is why they are protesting.” he said.

Pillay said that unions are likely to influence
political parties to forward their case, especially if
parties want to win the next legislative and
presidential elections.

On Wednesday, thousands blocked the streets of the
capital, and marched to the presidential palace,
demanding a rise in the minimum wage and a ban
on contract work, in a wave of protest to hit the
country.

On November 15, workers took to the streets in
Purwakarta, West Java, and the rising unrest is said
to indicated growing worker and union distrust of
the government and an increasing boldness to
demonstrate for change.

In early October, a nationwide strike crippled
production at 1000 factories.

The number of protests have increased even as
Indonesia posted strong growth and attracted a
record $5.9 bn in foreign direct investment in the
third quarter of this year.

Indonesia’s economy has expanded more than five
per cent in seven out of the past eight years.

The country is expected to grow by more than six
per cent in 2012 as it continues to attract record
amounts of foreign direct investment as more global
companies try to reach the growing middle class as
well as its rich natural resources.

On Thursday, the Jakarta Post reported that foreign
direct investment (FDI) is likely to remain high in
2013 “as the country will likely retain its economic
strength amid economic problems beleaguering
other competitors in attracting foreign investment to
the region.”

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