Indonesia-wide protests over workers' wages

Indonesia-wide protests over workers' wages

Tens of thousands of workers at industrial estates across Indonesia walked off their jobs on Monday at the start of week-long protests to demand average wage increases of 50 per cent next year, citing rising living costs.

Come Thursday and Friday, organisers said, some three million workers will take to the streets, threatening a halt in major production areas and a shutdown of the country's busiest seaport, Tanjung Priok.

"Today is just a warm-up. My fellow workers held rallies outside their plants, and went around their industrial estates to gather support and spread the word about our big plans on Oct 31 and Nov 1," Mr Muhammad Toha, a Jakarta-based electronics union leader told The Straits Times.

In cities from Medan to Makassar, and Sukabumi to Surabaya, factory workers blocked toll roads, surrounded district leaders' officers and conducted sweeps of factories to drag those still at work to join them.

Today and tomorrow, unions in the capital plan to demonstrate outside the city government building in the centre of town. Workers in at least 150 other districts and cities also plan to protest outside local administration offices.

Workers are also calling for universal health insurance to start earlier than 2019, the year in which the government has said health insurance for all will begin, and for an end to outsourcing.

Many businesses, including in Batam, are suspending operations for between a day and a week.

The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which had planned a visit to Cikarang, Jakarta and Surabaya this week to consider investments, decided to postpone its trip.

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