Mirah Sumirat, Chairman of the Indonesian Association of Trade Unions (Asosiasi Serikat Pekerja, abbreviated ASPEK), stated that the tens of thousands of Indonesian workers who participate in the demonstration, organized in Central Jakarta on Tuesday (01/09), are not seeking anarchy or a coup but simply request that the government will make more efforts to protect the interests of the people (as stipulated by the 1945 Constitution; article 27, paragraph 2).
Indonesia is currently experiencing a process of slowing economic growth which has already resulted in roughly 26,000 layoffs so far this year. Meanwhile, high inflation and the weak rupiah curtail people’s purchasing power. As a large portion of the Indonesian population lives just above the poverty line, high inflation can give rise to a higher poverty figure. Therefore, the Indonesian workers demand that the central government will guarantee the availability of jobs as well as the basic rights of workers.
The Indonesian workers also object to the recent scrapping of the Indonesian language proficiency requirement for foreign workers in Indonesia. In a 2013 draft regulation, foreign workers would be forced to pass an Indonesian language test before being allowed to obtain work and resident permits. However, this regulation was scrapped on request of Indonesian president Joko Widodo as it would jeopardize the attractiveness of Indonesia’s investment climate (foreign investors had objected to this regulation). As Indonesia’s unemployment rate is still high (5.81 percent of the total labor force, or 7.5 million people in absolute terms, according to official data but the real figure is expected to be higher) the workers are concerned that foreigners will be able to take on jobs that could be acquired by the Indonesian unemployed. Therefore, the Indonesian workers demand that the government will not roll out the ‘red carpet’ for foreign workers.
Other demands include:
• lower prices of essential goods (including fuel)
• reject the termination of workers’ employment based on the weak rupiah or economic slowdown
• raise Indonesia’s 2016 minimum wages by 22 percent in order to safeguard people’s purchasing power
• lift the status of contract workers to that of permanent employees (particularly in state-owned enterprises)
• raise the status (including salary) of teachers and put them on par with the status of civil servants
• raise the amount of retirement benefits for Indonesian workers to the level of civil servants
• cancel an increased health insurance contribution
• disband the Industrial Relations Court
Besides Jakarta, there are demonstrations staged simultaneously by Indonesian workers, coming from various labor organizations, in 20 other Indonesian provinces.
Jakarta Police have deployed about 8,500 officers to safeguard an orderly course of events in the capital city of Indonesia.