Fri, 11 Feb 2000

Hikes in minimum wage between 5% and 55%

JAKARTA (JP): The increases in regional minimum wages taking effect on April 1 will be determined independently by respective provinces, with Aceh so far proposing the highest increase of 54.97 percent and West Java the lowest at 5.13 percent.

"In accordance with the implementation of regional autonomy, regional minimum wages will be set by governors in cooperation with regional workers unions and regional chapters of the Indonesian Employers Association," Minister of Manpower Bomer Pasaribu said on Thursday during a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission V for labor and social welfare.

He declined to elaborate on the details saying that several provinces had yet to submit their proposals, but promised an official announcement by the end of the month.

The two proposals already submitted mean that the monthly minimum wage in West Java will be raised from Rp 200,000 to Rp 210,260, while in Aceh there will be an increase from Rp 171,000 to Rp 265,000.

Bomer conceded that despite the increases the purchasing power of workers was still not enough to purchase their minimum daily needs.

Without revealing the increase in South Sulwesi, he pointed out that even with an increase in the minimum wage, workers in that province would still only be able to provide for two-thirds of their basic needs.

He expressed hope that with continued economic progress workers wages would be high enough to satisfy their basic needs by 2001.

Bomer said despite the decentralized authority, the central government would establish common rules for regions in setting minimum wage levels in the future.

"With these rules, the central government will encourage regions to set minimum wage levels above the minimum human need level because regional autonomy is aimed at improving people's social welfare, including workers," he said.

He asserted that the central government could not raise minimum wages arbitrarily as it had to adhere to official procedures which also involved representatives of workers and employers.

"The government concedes that the current minimum wage level is so low that workers' purchasing power continues to weaken as a result of the prolonged monetary crisis and the high-cost economy, conditions which have simultaneously affected employers. Any increase must be adjusted to economic conditions," he said.


Meanwhile, Yacob Nuwu Wea, chairman of the Federation of All Indonesian Workers Unions (FSPSI), warned that labor unions would go ahead with their threat to call for a national strike if minimum wages were not increased by at least 50 percent.

"We will go ahead with our call for a national strike if our demand is not met," he said after the hearing.

Yacob, who himself is a legislator representing the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said Bomer, FSPSI's former chairman, should be fighting harder for workers' aspirations.

He argued that the government should revise the data components it used in formulating minimum wages as they were obsolete.

"The government should phase out the 43 wage components that are now out of date and replace them with 102 standard components. Workers in industrial plants no longer need the candles, the kerosene and the low price rice that are included in the current wage components," he said.

Yacob further asserted the need for workers to be given due recognition for their toil by allowing them to eventually have the purchasing power to own a house, clothing and send their children to school.(rms)