Medan ‘paralyzed’ by labor protest over wage hike dispute
Apriadi Gunawan and Fadli
The Jakarta Post
Thousands of workers staged a protest in Medan on Wednesday over the provincial minimum wage increase that was set at Rp 1.35 million (US$140.63) per month because it was far less than the Rp 2.2 million they demanded, thereby “paralyzing” daily activities in the North Sumatra capital.
Several main roads leading to important facilities such as Polonia International Airport, Belawan seaport, Tanjung Morawa toll road and government offices were blockaded by the protesters from 9 a.m. local time. Activities were ground to a halt for several hours.
Activities returned to normal at about 2 p.m. when the protesters marched to the North Sumatra governor’s office on Jl. Diponegoro in Medan.
There, the protesters asked North Sumatra interim Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho to help raise the minimum wage to Rp 2.2 million from Rp 1.3 million per month. Some of the protesters threatened to stay overnight at the gubernatorial office if their demand was not met.
Responding to the demand, Gatot accompanied by North Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Wisjnu Amat Sastro, Bukit Barisan Military Commander Maj. Gen. Lodewijk Paulus and provincial legislative council speaker Saleh Bangun, immediately held a meeting with all officers in charge of wage management, but no decision was made until 6 p.m.
“The demand for Rp 2.2 million monthly minimum wage is ideal for the workers. We will continue to push for our demand,” said Bambang Hermanto, the coordinator of the protest.
However, Laksamana Adyaksa, secretary of the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), said that the provincial administration had no legal basis to raise the wage as demanded by the protesters. The employers, he said, would turn down any decision on the wage increase made by the interim governor. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to make revisions whenever there is pressure from the workers,” he said, adding that employers also opposed the new Rp 1.37 million per month minimum wage as announced by Gatot last week. The protest in Medan was just one of many other carried out in big cities throughout the country over the last several weeks that saw workers continuing their push for wage increases.
Meanwhile in Batam, Riau Island province, the local chapter of Apindo revealed the demand of 130 employers that the local administration delay the application of the wage increase to Rp 2.04 million per month. Riau Island Governor Muhammad Sani himself had not signed a decree on the wage increase as of Wednesday, even though it should have been signed 40 days before Jan. 1, 2013.
Head of Riau Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) Johannes Kennedy Aritonang said on Wednesday that Kadin and Apindo had opened a complaint post in connection with the monthly wage increase of 31 percent from Rp 1.4 million to Rp 2.04 million. Since the complaint post was opened on Monday, 130 firms mostly focusing on manufacturing and garments said they could not meet the wage increase demand.
Johannes said that the 130 companies were ready to be audited by public accountants to review their financial conditions.
“In short, the companies are ready to carry out all procedures demanded by the administration,” he added.
The Riau Islands Legislative Council had set the 2013 monthly minimum wage for the province at Rp 2.04 million on Tuesday in response to a proposal from the provincial administration.
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