News / Asia

Labor Unrest Unsettles Booming Indonesia

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s workers await bus at Gorong Gorong station in Timika, Papua province, Indonesia, Jan. 3, 2012.
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s workers await bus at Gorong Gorong station in Timika, Papua province, Indonesia, Jan. 3, 2012.

Indonesia has some of the cheapest wages in Asia, making it an attractive destination for companies feeling the pinch from rising labor costs in China and elsewhere in the region. The standard minimum wage in Jakarta is $170 a month compared to $240 in Shenzhen.

It also has a booming economy: Consumer-goods manufacturers and commodities exporters hauled in record profits in 2011.

But labor unions have taken notice, and now they're demanding a bigger slice of company revenues.

In late January, months of unrest that accompanied demands for wage increases culminated in a protest by 20,000 workers at an industrial estate on the outskirts of Jakarta, effectively shutting down scores of businesses.

In response, the government and the Indonesian Employers Association, a lobbying group also known as Apindo, agreed to workers’ demands for a 15-percent salary hike.

Apindo's deputy chairman Hasanuddin Rachman says while his group supports raising wages, not all companies can afford to.

"If the company is able to pay, please pay, but we have to protect SMA, small and medium enterprise, who are not able to pay this minimum wage," he says.

Many companies plead poverty when negotiating employee wages, but January’s settlement with Apindo and a high-profile agreement with the U.S.-based mining giant Freeport McMoRan have encouraged labor unions looking to raise salaries.

Freeport's Indonesia operations bring in about 30 percent of the company’s global revenue, which totaled more than $5 billion in 2010. Its Indonesia-based employees received wages starting at $1.50 an hour before they negotiated a 37-percent increase in December.

Labor unions are also demanding a renegotiation of 2003 labor laws that mandate high severance payments for terminated workers, a regulation many companies simply ignore or circumvent by hiring contract laborers.

The result, say union leaders, is a significant decline in the number of permanent workers since 2003. Whereas government Officials have discussed revising the regulations, talks have broken down in recent weeks, and lawmakers now say they have no intention of revising the law.

A powerful alliance of the country’s main labor unions has warned that, until reforms are implemented, they will continue to stage rallies and strikes.

Hasanuddin worries about the potential impact the ongoing unrest would have on foreign investors.

“They’re concerned that if the situation is like this they’ll move to another country," he says.

Japanese and South Korean businesses have recently filed complaints with Indonesian authorities claim the unrest has severely harmed their businesses.

"So that’s why we have to take care of this situation," says Hasanuddin. "We also persuasively talk to Korean Embassy, Japan Embassy: ‘Please don’t go from Indonesia. We will settle this problem.’”

Hasanuddin has appealed to the government to reassure investors that it is serious about taking action, but so far there is little to indicate that negotiations are nearing a resolution, which means labor unrest is likely to continue.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid