Martin McLaughlin – Tens of thousands of Indonesian workers have joined in strikes and protests against the military-backed regime and the policies of crippling economic austerity imposed at the dictates of the International Monetary Fund and the US government.
In Surabaya, the country's second largest city, 10,000 shoe factory workers tore down tree branches and built roadblocks on the second day of protests demanding pay increases. The workers marched on the regional parliament building. Soldiers lined the city's downtown streets but made no attempt to interfere with the protest.
Surabaya has been paralyzed by a strike by dock workers at its port, Tanjung Perak. The 6,000 workers walked out on June 17 demanding that their basic wage be increased from 7,000 rupiah to 15,000 rupiah an hour (about US$1 an hour at current exchange rates).
The east Java port is one of the Indonesia's busiest, handling over $12 billion in exports and imports last year. By the weekend, 49 ships were sitting idle at dockside waiting to be unloaded and another 170 stood in the harbor.
Major strikes have broken out in the factory belt surrounding Jakarta, the capital city. In Karawang, 2,500 workers from P.T. Texmaco Perkasa Eugenering walked out demanding a wage raise, and improvements in overtime pay, annual holidays and food allowances.
Most of the 1,500 workers at the P.T. Kukdong factory were also on strike. Their demands included a reduction in the taxes taken from their wage packets, more holiday money, and money for food and transportation.
Another strike hit the P.T. Sandang Mutiara Era Mulia factory, where most of the 1,200 workers walked out Monday, June 22. They demanded a 30 percent wage increase, payment for overtime work and better food provisions.
Workers also staged a strike at the government's main currency printing plant, protesting excessive overtime and demanding higher pay and benefits. The value of the Indonesian currency, the rupiah, has fallen from 2,400 to the US dollar to as low as 17,000 to the dollar in recent weeks, and the government has fueled the inflation by keeping the printing presses running.