19 Batam workers held after barging into factory over pay protest

19 Batam workers held after barging into factory over pay protest
Some of the 24 protesters who were detained for unruly behaviour while demonstrating in Batam. The chaos in Batam is part of a nationwide stand-off between labour unions and employers over higher wages.

POLICE rounded up 19 workers in Batam for unruly behaviour as tensions rose between labour unions and employers, with workers vowing to keep up the pressure for higher wages.

The workers were caught by police as they conducted "sweeping" - forcing their way into factories to urge workers to walk off their jobs - at Cammo Industrial Park in Batam Centre which houses mostly Singapore companies.

Police were alerted when a security guard at the factory was overwhelmed by hundreds of workers who had forced their way in to gather more demonstrators for their march to the mayor's office.

"Workers from outside spilled into the factory area after forcing open the fence. They said they were 'sweeping'. We had no choice but to let them enter, then we quickly alerted the police," said Mr Frederikus, chief of the security in the complex.

The arrests in Batam mark the latest stand-off between workers and employers on the island as governors and their district chiefs race to set the minimum wage for next year for their provinces, districts and sectors.

Initially, national labour unions demanded a 50 per cent hike in wages, but later scaled this down to 30 per cent following the country's weakened economy.

Monday's scuffle stemmed from workers disgruntled that Riau Islands Governor Muhammad Sani set sectoral wages for those working in shipping, oil and gas and mining, electronics and hospitality higher than the provincial minimum wage.

Workers in shipping, oil and gas and mining, for example, are paid 2,640,080 rupiah (S$264) monthly beginning next month, but the provincial-level minimum pay is 2,422,092 rupiah monthly.

That the provincial level minimum pay for next year is 19 per cent higher than this year's 2,040,000 rupiah monthly has failed to satisfy the disgruntled workers who want far more.

Mr Saiful Badri, head of the SPSI labour union whose workers were arrested, said the unruly workers had got carried away. Some rode motorcycles, circling the compound outside the factories, and later threw broken glass at factories, damaging property.


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