The Jakarta Post
This year's May Day celebrations proceeded peacefully on Friday with workers mostly taking to the streets in festive moods.
This is the second year that workers have celebrated May Day as a national holiday.
'After monitoring the situation in several provinces, the May Day celebrations on May 1 have truly been a celebration. There were several rallies, with workers making their speeches, but there were no efforts to block roads or conduct sweeping activities [where demonstators prevent those wanting to work from doing so],' Vice President Jusuf Kalla told reporters on Friday.
Kalla visited National Police headquarters in South Jakarta to conduct a video conference with officials in a number of provinces to monitor May Day celebrations.
The Vice President said this year's May Day celebrations had been much more peaceful than last year's.
He thanked National Police chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti for his efforts to secure the celebrations.
Badrodin, meanwhile, said there were 170 potential hot spots nationwide where security problems could arise, which the police had monitored closely on Friday.
However, he said everything was under control.
'There were around 352,000 workers [commemorating May Day] and so far it has all gone smoothly without any problems,' he said.
Badrodin said that better communication between the police and leaders of workers unions had prevented possible clashes.
'We have been better prepared this year, especially during technical meetings between provincial police headquarters and the worker associations,' he said.
Earlier this week, All-Indonesia Workers Union Confederation (KSPSI) chairman Andi Gani Nena Wea met with President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo at the State Palace to discuss preparations for May Day.
In the meeting, Andi expressed his optimism that Labor Day would proceed peacefully.
Jokowi encouraged workers' plans to hold rallies during Labor Day and called on the public not to worry about them.
During his recent visit to Ungaran, Central Java on Tuesday, Jokowi launched Sejuta Rumah, a program to build 1 million houses and low-cost rental apartments in nine provinces across the country.
Jokowi was joined by Andi and the chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union (KSPI), Said Iqbal, during the visit.
The program targets low-wage workers, which includes laborers, fishermen, civil servants, as well as military and police personnel. The government has also pledged to expedite the construction of 10,000 low-cost apartments.
Meanwhile on Friday, at least 65,000 workers from Greater Jakarta congregated in several spots in the capital, including the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, the State Palace and the Bung Karno Stadium to celebrate May Day. The Jakarta Police deployed more than 14,000 personnel to secure the event.
In their rallies, workers demanded better pay, the elimination of outsourcing, pension coverage and better protection for labor activists.
Responding to the demands of several worker associations to raise the minimum wage, Kalla said many companies paid their workers much higher than the minimum wage.
He called on workers to be grateful for the jobs they had as the prospect of unemployment remained for many.
'We have between 2 and 3 million new workers every year but job vacancies are not available,' he said.
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