INDONESIA - An estimated 7,000 workers from the city and surrounding areas staged a mass rally, demanding the government significantly raise the provincial minimum wages and retract a recent presidential instruction, which set the ceiling of wage increases to 10 per cent.
The demonstrators, mostly members of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers' Union (KSPI), marched from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the National Monument (Monas), causing traffic to back up along Jl. Thamrin, Jl. Sudirman and the streets around Monas Square for hours.
They also besieged the Presidential Palace but to no avail as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is out of the country on a visit to Poland and Russia.
However, the labour rally was not sullied by violence as the police deployed 11,000 personnel - including those from the Jakarta Military Command - to maintain security and order as well as to help ease the traffic congestion.
Jakarta Police operational division head Sr. Comr. M. Chairul lauded the peaceful rally and said demonstrators complied with the police's instruction to disperse at 6 p.m.
A large group of protesters, mostly wearing black shirts coupled with red headbands, marched with a large banner that read: "1 Januari 2014, jaminan kesehatan national harus dijalankan tanpa syarat di bawah BPJS. Tolak upah murah. Jangan berbohong pada rakyat and tolak politisasi jamsos" (the national healthcare programme must be implemented without any reserves as of Jan. 1, 2014. We reject the cheap wage policy. Do not lie to the people and do not politicize social security programs).
Nurdin, a unionist speaking from the back of a truck, called on the government to show its commitment to the nationwide implementation of the national social security programme from January 2014 to help protect workers, especially those in labour intensive industry and the informal sector.
"If the national healthcare is not implemented in January, all workers will stage a national strike," he said.