More than two million workers struck across Indonesia last week. They demanded a 50 percent minimum wage rise as well as healthcare and an end to contract work and outsourcing. A similar strike last year resulted in massive wage increases.
Dhaffa Syahida Yusuf, a construction worker on the industrial island of Batam, spoke to Socialist Worker. He said, “If we hadn’t held the strike last year our wages might still have been below £112 a month this year. The minimum wage is far below what is needed for a reasonable life,” he continued.
“If we want to send our children to school it’s expensive and it means we have to rent a place that is small and dirty. If we want to buy a house, we and our families have to starve. And if we want to eat, well then we have to sacrifice our children’s education. That’s the life of a worker.”
A 44 percent rise in the cost of energy this year has fuelled workers’ anger about insecure work. Anang, a long term temporary worker in Jakarta, told Socialist Worker, “I joined the strike because outsourced workers never receive wage rises.
“There are people who have worked for years and never become permanent staff.
“Our wages now are still low but our expenses keep growing because the price of all goods goes up. That’s why I agree with, and joined the strike with my work friends.”
In “warm-up” actions ahead of the strike 80,000 workers took to the streets. Thousands surrounded the Governor of Jakarta’s office and workers also disrupted the meeting of the council that decides the minimum wage for Jakarta.
“The governor says he is pro the poor, but he is the one that is making the people poor,” said Alang Fatahillah from the Progresip union. Despite the 2012 national strike increasing wages some unions were reluctant to support the strike this year.
“Some union leaders didn’t want their members to strike but many did anyway. Some even asked us to do ‘sweeping’ (flying pickets) at their workplaces so they could join in,” said Alang.
The strike was met with heavy repression as hired thugs joined the police and army to break up strikes. Dozens of workers had to be taken to hospital. Some are in critical condition.
Regional governments began announcing new wages. A presidential decree and pressure from the capitalists has meant that most have not increased wages by more than 10-30 percent. This has sparked outrage.
Union leaders met on Friday of last week. It was agreed that workers would return to the streets in coming days in even greater numbers to continue the struggle.
Dhaffa underlined workers’ determination to beat the bosses. “We will continue striking and demonstrating until our demands are met,” he said.