Sunday, November 19, 2006

Union members, police clash during minimum wage protest

National News - November 15, 2006
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Protesters demanding an increase in the minimum wage scuffled with security officers Tuesday in front of the offices of the Bandung regency and local legislative council in Soreang.

Hundreds of textile factory workers from the regency's five industrial centers forced their way into the regency office compound, but were blocked by officers of the Bandung police.

The National Workers Union members from Dayeuhkolot, Baleendah, Katapang, Banjaran and Batujajar demanded that Bandung Regent Obar Sobarna raise the minimum wage from Rp 710,000 (US$74.73) a month this year to Rp 920,000 next year.

The protesters came to the area in convoys of motorcycles. They were stopped by a police rope line.

"What do they think we are ... animals? Why do they simply drive us away? We're the guests of Obar Sobarna," cried Etty, a worker from Dayeuhkolot.

Others traded punches with the police, but no protesters were arrested.

Minimum wage levels in the provinces are currently being negotiated by local governments, employers and workers' representatives. Each province must publicly announce its decision by early December, a month before the new wage goes into effect.

Sodikun, the coordinator of the protest, said it was time for the local administration, councilors and businessmen to raise the minimum wage in line with the results of a survey on workers' basic needs.

Sodikun said the minimum wage of Rp 710,000 per month met only 95 percent of the acceptable living level, and that factories have essentially not objected to the proposed increase.

"The absence of objections shows all employers are capable of paying the higher wages," he said.

Sodikun said the quality of work would be influenced by the mental condition of the workers. They would be enthusiastic about their labors, he said, if they got salaries that met their basic needs.

The protest ended peacefully after local officials agreed to hold meetings with their representatives to discuss their request.


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