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Indonesian Labor Strike Smaller Than Expected

  • VOA News

Indonesian workers march during a rally against low wages in Jakarta, Oct 31, 2013.

Indonesian workers march during a rally against low wages in Jakarta, Oct 31, 2013.

Tens of thousands of Indonesians are staging a two-day nationwide strike for higher wages, but the turnout is much lower than expected.

Union leaders had claimed that 2 million workers would talk off the job on Thursday, but police say only about 100,000 have taken part in the work stoppage.

Union leaders, such as Nurdin of the Indonesian Workers Union, tell VOA they want workers to enjoy a larger share of the growing economy, with large enough raises to keep up with the expanding cost of living.

"In 2014, labor wage in Indonesia should go up by 50 percent. It's because the minimum wage in Indonesia is lower than that in other countries [in the region]," said Nurdin.

Owners of factories and other businesses have expressed relief that the strike was much smaller than advertised.

But Sofyan Wanandi, chairman of the Indonesian Entrepreneurs Association, says continuing labor action still could harm businesses.

"The law actually says you can only hold a strike if negotiations failed. We don't have any negotiations yet but they're already threatening us. Discuss this first in the remuneration board. If the strikes continue to occur, nobody dared to invest in Indonesia. We will be at loss because it will automatically bring unemployment," said Wanandi.

Most of the demonstrations by workers Thursday were peaceful, but there were isolated incidents of strikers clashing with counter-protesters, resulting in injuries.

The strike is expected to end on Friday.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.