INDONESIA - A widespread labour strike on Thursday paralysed activities at some 1,000 foreign investment companies in Batam, Riau Islands, as union members conducted door-to-door sweeps in 26 industrial areas.
The move by unionists forced industrial area managements to deploy members of youth organisations to safeguard their compounds.
Members of Pancasila Youth (PP), for example, guarded the entrance to Tunas Industrial Zone in Batam Center while the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers Union (FSPMI) staged a rally in front of the industrial area.
Meanwhile, workers tried to bring down the entrance gate to Executive Park Industrial Zone.
A worker for Siemens fabrication yard, Yudi Karya, said the firm's employees were given the day off in case of any fall outs due to the strike that might have disrupted the company's activities.
"We are also afraid to go to work wearing our uniforms because the unionists will demand us to take part in the strike. That's why we were given the day off."
FSPMI members initially planned to blockade Hang Nadim International Airport and a number of ports. Security personnel, however, were deployed to prevent such blockades from taking place.
It was estimated that the strike in Batam had caused losses of some US$20 million (S$24 million) per day, said Nada Faza Soraya, acting chairwoman of the Riau Islands chapter of the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Trade (Kadin).
Workers all over Indonesia are demanding a 50 per cent minimum wage increase for 2014.
They are also demanding contract employment and the outsourcing system to be wiped out.
Workers in Batam, for example, demanded Rp 3.7 million (S$407) instead of Rp 2.17 million for 2014.
In Makassar, South Sulawesi, some 1,000 workers and university students demanded Rp 2.25 million for 2014.
"It is just enough to eat every day, while we have to borrow money every month for other needs. The conditions of workers with families are even worse," said worker Asriani.
Quoting data from the Central Statistics Agency, workers said that companies in South Sulawesi had enjoyed profit growth for several years while wages remained flat.
Despite the rally, activities at factories in the Makassar Industrial Zone remained normal because only some workers took part in the strike.
In Gorontalo, workers affiliated with FSPMI urged the provincial administration to revise the 2014 minimum wage from Rp 1,425,000 to Rp 1,762,000.
The Jambi chapter of the Confederation of Indonesian Labor Union (KSBI) demanded Jambi Governor Hasan Basri Agus review the province minimum wage of Rp 1.5 million and raise it to Rp 1.6 million.
Hasan promised he would review the workers' demand, emphasizing that the minimum wage had gone through the remuneration council.
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe said the province minimum wage was set at Rp 1.9 million, although he admitted that the ideal figure was more than Rp 2 million.
"We will review the figure because prices in Papua are very high," he said.
Meanwhile in Medan, members of the Indonesian Labors' Union (Serbundo) fielded a slightly different demand by calling on owners of oil palm plantations grouped in the Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to allow the existence of labour unions in their companies.
Oil palm plantations often violated labour regulations because there were no labour unions supervising industrial relations in the companies, Serbundo coordinator Herwin Nasution said.
He said that Serbundo would stage a rally during an RSPO meeting on Nov. 11 in Medan.
Syamsul Huda M.Suhari, Jon Afrizal and Nethy Dharma Somba contributed to the story from Gorontalo, Jambi and Jayapura.