The Jakarta Post
Thousands of workers descended on City Hall to protest a gubernatorial decree that raises the 2014 minimum wage by 11 percent, saying the meager increase constituted an economic injustice.
Demonstrators, coming mostly from industrial estates in Cilincing, Pulogadung and Cakung, forced their way onto City Hall grounds and threatened not to leave until the governor retracted or annulled the decree.
Jakarta Labor Forum secretary-general and demonstration leader Muhammad Toha said on Friday that they were disappointed with Governor Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo for signing off on a monthly minimum wage of Rp 2.4 million.
Toha said the wage hike was too small, given the daily needs of laborers.
'We will keep fighting, We will stay overnight to protest here until the governor changes the decree,' he said on the sidelines of the demonstration.
Toha said the workers were optimistic that Jokowi would retract the decree.
'We have so far not considered challenging the decree in the State Administrative Court.'
Having received two alternative wage hike proposals put forth by the city's wage committee on Thursday, Jokowi decided to raise the minimum wage by 11 percent to Rp 2,440,331 (US$217) per month starting January 2014 from the current Rp 2.2 million, as was originally proposed by the city administration's representatives in a tripartite plenary session held by the labor committee.
At the session, employers had proposed a wage hike to Rp 2,229,000, while the workers walked out after their proposal of Rp 2.9 million was turned down.
Chairman of the Confederation of Indonesia Prosperity Labor Union (KSBSI) Mudhofir criticized the governor, saying he had shown no political commitment to improving the welfare of workers in the city.
'The governor's decision to raise the minimum wage by 11 percent is a humiliation for workers and other low-income people in the city, as the Bekasi municipal administration has committed to raising its minimum wage by 40 percent to Rp 2.9 million in 2014 from the current Rp 2.1 million. It is impossible that the cost of living is higher in Bekasi than in Jakarta,' he said.
He said that representing its members in the Pulogadung and Cakung industrial estates and the Tanjung Priok port, the KSBSI unit in the city would file a lawsuit against the governor over the decree.
Jakarta workers had earlier demanded the governor raise the minimum wage by 68 percent to Rp 3.7 million, due to higher cost of living mainly driven by climbing commodities prices triggered by the fuel price hikes in June this year and by increasing transportation and housing rent prices.
Meanwhile, Asrial Chaniago, representing the Indonesian Employers' Association (Apindo) in the city's wage committee, said most employers in the city would comply with the gubernatorial decree but small-scale enterprises would likely request a deferment from the wage hike because of the economic difficulties they were facing.
'However, increasing the minimum wage by 11 percent is feasible for big companies, and the mechanism to propose a deferment is complicated,' he said.
Asrial said that the amount of the proposed hike was reasonable. 'The wage hike is acceptable because it is in line with the inflation rate, the basic cost of living [KHL] survey and worker productivity,' he said, adding that most workers were not very productive since they lacked higher education.
Asrial said the employers were generally glad that Jokowi and Deputy Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama were prepared to handle the wage hike issue so they would not be handcuffed by workers' unrealistic demands.
The deputy chairman of the Jakarta office of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), Sarman Simanjorang, said increasing the minimum wage to Rp 3.7 was unreasonable.
'The workers should be wise and realize that it is neither in their employers' interest nor in their own,' he said.
Sarman warned that at least 7 million people were already unemployed and that with an excessive wage increase downsizing, layoffs and factory lock-outs would be inevitable.
Meanwhile, Jokowi said he could not do anything but take one of the two options that had been proposed by the wage committee.
He said it was impossible for him to fulfill the workers' demands, which he called unrealistic. 'All small-scale enterprises and labor-intensive companies will collapse if the minimum wage was raised to Rp 3.7 million as has been demanded by workers,' he said.
However, Ahok said the city government would provide workers and their families with cheap public transportation, a free health care program and a free education scheme to help improve their social welfare.
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