Tue, 25 Jan 2000

Government may increase regional minimum wage by 16 percent

JAKARTA (JP): The government will soon announce a raise in the regional minimum monthly wage, which officials have revealed is expected to be about the same as last year's average 16 percent rise.

Syaufi'i Syamsuddin, director general for labor standards and industrial relations at the manpower ministry, disclosed the announcement was expected to be made by the end of the month.

He would not go into detail, saying the specifics were still being discussed but that the percentage raise would be about the same as last year.

"We have received numerous proposals on the hike from governors but the government has yet to decide the percentage. However, it will be announced in the near future," he said.

Syaufi'i said the announcement would be made soon to allow companies a three-month grace period to make the necessary preparations before the wage increases take effect in April.

He said the early announcement would also allow troubled companies time to request a deferral if they have sound reasons they cannot afford to increase wages.

He added that the government would not unilaterally decide on the raise, but would first consult with provincial administrations and all parties representing workers and employers.

Syaufi'i acknowledged, however, that the purchasing power of most workers in the country was very weak. He even conceded that with the current minimum wage most workers could not meet their daily minimum needs.

"How can workers in a factory in Jakarta meet their daily minimum needs if they are paid Rp 231,000 per month," he said.

But he noted that with the economy not fully recovered, it would also be too burdensome for companies if the increase was too high.


In compliance with the International Labor Organization's (ILO) convention on the freedom of association, Syaufi'i also said Indonesia's four million civil servants were free to reject membership of the Indonesian Civil Servants Corps (Korpri), and establish a separate labor union if they wished.

"The government no longer has the right to bar civil servants from joining political parties or to force them to continue to accept Korpri, as it is against ILO conventions," Syaufi'i said after receiving an ILO delegation here on Monday.

He said the government would amend the 1999 law on civil servants to comply with the ILO convention, which it ratified in 1997, and issue a law guaranteeing freedom of association applying both to workers and civil servants.

"The manpower ministry will soon submit a bill on employment training, industrial relations and freedom of association to the House of Representatives for endorsement," he said.

However, those serving in the military and police will still be excluded.

Syaufi'i pointed out that a new ruling excluding them would soon be issued.

"It would be dangerous if servicemen were allowed to join political parties and set up their own unions," he said.

So far, at least 26 labor unions, including the government- backed All-Indonesia Workers Union Federation (FSPSI), have been established to represent workers.

Payaman Simanjuntak, an expert staff at the ministry, warned that despite newly granted freedom of association, civil servants would not be allowed to strike, since they have a specific public service duty.

"Can you imagine what would happen to hospital patients if nurses were allowed to stage strikes. Public servants are allowed to air their aspirations but they shouldn't be allowed to stage labor strikes," he said in the meeting. (rms)