May Day: Laborers state their demands

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Laborers marched to Presidential Palace in Jakarta. (photo: IO/Yoga)

IO – This is the 128th Mayday throughout the world, as well as the 20th anniversary of Indonesia’s reforms. At the time, laborers, college students, and other marginalized elements took to the road to demand the resignation of the authoritarian regime of the New Order. Along with the 1998 economic crisis that hit all Asia, the 32-year reign of the New Order finally fell. A fresh breeze of democracy blew most covers, and the ambience became more open.

20 years after reforms, nothing much has in fact changed. The laboring class continues to be the only one that must withstand the burdens of abuse. In late 2015, the Government issued Government Regulation (Peraturan Pemerintah – “PP”) No. 78, a regulation on how much of a raise in wages laborers are allowed. In view of the global economic crisis in 2008 that we have not entirely recovered from, the tightening of budgets is believed to be an effective effort to revive the economy.

10,000 protesters, comprised of various labor groups, gathered near the Presidential Palace in Jakarta to voice their demands. Most of these workers came from Jakarta, Tangerang, Bogor, Depok, and Bekasi, but some traveled from West Java, Surabaya, and even the furthest, all the way from Papua. In this protest action, the laborers made clear three main demands (tiga tuntutan utama – “Tritura”), born out of their disappointment with the current “Jokowi Government”.

The laborers’ first demand is that the Government lower prices and fees for foodstuffs and other necessities. The price of main food necessities, especially rice, has reached critical levels. Other necessities that they want to bring down are prices for electricity and petroleum-based fuels.

In fact, the Government has already set the Highest Retail Price (Harga Eceran Tertinggi – “HET”) for medium-quality rice on the island of Java and in Lampung, South Sumatra, at Rp 9,450.00/kg, and premium quality rice at Rp 12,800/kg. These prices should have been enforced by April 2018, but sellers frequently sell rice above the set limit.

The workers also demanded that PP No. 78, year 2015, be revoked. Furthermore, they demand that the contents of the Necessities for Decent Living (Kebutuhan Hidup Layak – “KHL”) list be increased from 60 items or goods to 84, divided into categories such as food, clothing, education, health, transportation, recreation, savings, and housing.

Other than the above regulation, the workers demand that the Government revoke Presidential Regulation Number 20 year 2018 concerning Foreign Workers (Tenaga Kerja Asing – “TKA”). Some of the more controversial articles include Article 10 Paragraph (1), which among others, eased the regulation that employers of TKA are obliged to get a Foreign Worker Utilization Plan (Rencana Penggunaan Tenaga Kerja Asing – “RPTKA”) before they employ foreign workers. This is what has lately stolen unskilled work from our local Indonesian workers. (raihan)