20,000 workers to protest layoffs and low wages: Union

Hundreds of workers in Batam, Riau Islands, demonstrate on Friday to reject new formula for raising wages. (Antara/M N Kanwa) Hundreds of workers in Batam, Riau Islands, demonstrate on Friday to reject new formula for raising wages. (Antara/M N Kanwa)

Labor unions plan to send 20,000 members to rally in front of the Presidential Palace and the Supreme Court on Feb. 6 to protest layoffs and to urge the government to revoke the recently introduced formula for setting minimum wages.

The rally follows the announcement of mass layoffs at companies such Japanese electronics giants Panasonic and Toshiba, which adds pressure on the government to swiftly implement stimulus packages designed to offset the economic slowdown.

“Not only in Jakarta, simultaneous rallies will be held by thousands of workers in Surabaya, Batam, Bandung, Medan, Aceh and Makassar,” the chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Unions (KSPI), Said Iqbal, said in Jakarta on Wednesday.

PT Panasonic Lighting, with facilities in Cikarang, West Java, and Pasuruan, East Java, as well as PT Toshiba Indonesia in Cikarang have announced the layoff plans to their workers, according to Said.

“It affects 1,700 KSPI members at Panasonic and 970 members at Toshiba. Around 600-700 Panasonic Lighting workers in Pasuruan were to be laid off in December and January, and another 900 to 1,000 workers in Cikarang would follow from January to March,” he said as quoted by kompas.com on Tuesday.

Currently, Said continued, the labor union was negotiating with the management of Panasonic and Toshiba on compensation for the workers. Both companies would officially stop operations in March, he said.

Beside those two Japanese companies, Said added, two South Korean electronics companies also shut down operations in January, namely PT Samoin, which had laid off 1,200 workers, and PT Starlink, which had dismissed 500 employees.

This situation, Said argued, sent a negative signal to the public, especially as the Industry Ministry had not been informed about the shut downs. The global slowdown has hit electronics manufacturer hard, curbing domestic purchasing power and hence demand.

“It proves that the economic policy packages issued by the Joko Widodo-Jusuf Kalla administration are ineffective in their implementation. The policy packages only aim to accommodate investors, but in fact they [the investors] choose to wait and see amid the shutdown news,” Said claimed.

The union leader blamed the latest minimum wage formula for causing a drop in purchasing power and curbing demand, which then prompted the manufacturers to halt operations. (ags)(+)

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