JAKARTA - Thousands of workers rallied in the Indonesian capital Jakarta Wednesday, demanding higher salaries after a recent increase in the fuel price pushed up inflation.
Crowds waving flags marched to a major roundabout in downtown Jakarta and to the presidential palace to kick off two days of strikes across the country, while there were smaller walk-outs in other cities.
Protesters in Jakarta are unhappy with an increase in the minimum wage agreed for 2015, particularly after the government raised fuel prices which pushed up inflation due to the higher cost of transporting goods.
"We are against this cheap wage regime, and we are also against the petrol hike," said Subianto, who goes by one name and is secretary general of the KSPSI union, one of several unions organising the protests.
"If the government cannot push the petrol price down then they must subsidise staple foods." The workers were also demanding improved pensions, as well as an end to outsourcing labour and moves aimed at curbing the power of unions.
New President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, raised the price of petrol and diesel by more than 30 per cent last month in a bid to reduce government subsidies that gobble up a huge chunk of the state budget.
Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto, who goes by one name, said about 4,500 workers took to the streets in the capital and the protests were peaceful.
The figure was far below the tens of thousands that police and unions had expected.