Thousands of laborers grouped under the Indonesian Workers Movement (GBI) conducted a long march from the Bank Indonesia traffic circle to the Presidential Palace to voice their demands on Tuesday.
The scores of workers came from three labor union confederations, namely the Indonesian Workers Union Confederation (KSPI) headed by Siad Iqbal, the All Indonesian Workers Union Confederation (KSPSI) under Andi Gani and the All Indonesian Laborers Confederation (KSBSI) led by Mudhofir.
One of the workers agenda during the rally was to reject the government policy, which provides easy access to foreigners wanting to work in Indonesia by lifting the requirement for them to master the Indonesian language.
"Workers rejected the policy because the rates of unemployment and layoffs in Indonesia are currently high. Based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS), the number of unemployed people rose by 300 hundred thousand to 7.45 million in February 2015," Mirah Sumirat, the President of the Indonesian Workers Unions Association (Aspek Indonesia), said in press statement on Tuesday.
Sumirat said the government should not bow down to foreign capital owners but have the courage to protect the interest of its own people.
"The government should protect the interest of the people as stated in the 1945 Constitution," Sumirat stated.
She added that the government also needed to guarantee employment for workers and their basic needs amidst uncertain economic conditions and the weakening of the rupiah that had depreciated to Rp14,000 against the U.S. dollar.
The 1945 Constitution in its Article 27 point 2 has made clear the states obligation to guarantee the rights of the Indonesian people on employment and leading a proper life.
"The government should take steps by extending more protection to the Indonesian workers by not laying down a red carpet for foreign workers coming to Indonesia," said Sumirat.
Therefore, Aspek Indonesia raised several demands during the rally, calling for the lowering of prices of basic necessities and fuel oil, and putting a stop to layoffs on the grounds of rupiah depreciation and an economic slowdown.
Workers in Aspek Indonesia also criticized the easy access given to foreign workers entering the country.
They urged the government to raise workers wages in 2016 to increase their purchasing power.
Workers also rejected the Government Draft Regulation on Wage, which they said is only based on inflation-plus and gross domestic income.
They demanded that decent living standards, which had become the basis for the formulation of workers wage, be revised and increased from 60 points to 84 points.
The workers also demanded an overhaul of the Pension Assurance of the Social Security Management Agency for Employment (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan). They demanded that pension benefits for workers should be the same as civil servants, and not the monthly Rp300,000 currently paid out.
Regarding the performance of the Social Security Management Agency for Health (PBJS Kesehatan), the demonstrators urged the agency to improve its services and eliminate the INA CBGs (Indonesia Case-Based Group) system and the Health Ministers Regulation from 2014, which had reduced hospital tariffs.
Laborers also rejected the hike in the BPJS Kesehatan premium pay, calling on the government to increase the budget allocation for recipients of the premium payment assistance (PBI) to Rp30 trillion.
They also demanded that the Industrial Relations Court (PHI) should be dissolved by amending Law No. 2/2004, terming PHI as a graveyard for workers.
In connection with the accident at PT Mandom Indonesia, the demonstrators demanded that the companys leaders be punished for their negligence, which had resulted in the death of 27 workers and 31 others facing the threat of losing their jobs.
Also, labor activists are often criminalized, and many are put behind bars for employers wrong doings; and the police are very slow in taking action. The unions demanded that the wrongful persecution of workers should be stopped.
They also urged President Joko Widodo to replace Manpower Minister Hanif Dhakiri because he had failed to take action in the cases involving labor disputes.
Finally, the demonstrators called for the elimination of modern slavery by enacting a law on the protection of domestic servants. The KSPI said it will organize a nationwide strike, if its demands are not met.
In the meantime, the Indonesian National Police has previously said it will deploy 11 thousand personnel to secure a labor demonstration involving 52 thousand workers.
Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti said besides the 11 thousand personnel, the police will also alert reserve forces to anticipate an undesired event from taking place.
"The Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) will also provide assistance. We will guard vital spots in Jakarta," Haiti said after attending a coordination meeting on legal, political and security affairs on Monday.
The concentration points, which will become the focus of the police guard, include the HI Traffic Circle and routes from HI to the Presidential Palace.
Haiti said the demonstrators will be directed to and allowed to gather near the premises of the Jakarta Governor's office to hold a dialogue with Manpower Minister, Hanif Dhakiri and Health Minister Nila Djuwita Moeloek.
"Some 52 thousand workers are expected to take part in Tuesdays rallies and to hold a dialogue with the ministers," Haiti said.
Jakarta Military Command Chief Maj. Gen. Agus Sutomo said his side would deploy personnel of three equal company units to safeguard important places in the capital city such as shopping centers.
He expressed conviction that the demonstration would proceed peacefully. "We cooperate we the police to safeguard strategic spots. There would be no anarchic acts. Labor leaders have also promised to stage peaceful rallies," said the Jakarta Military commander.(*)