Wed, 22 Nov 2000

Labor unions call for minimum wages to meet human needs

JAKARTA (JP): Labor unions on Tuesday called on the government to phase out the monthly minimum wage (UMR) and instead adopt a new remuneration system based on minimum human needs so as to improve the welfare of workers.

The All Indonesia Federation of Workers' Unions (FSPSI) chairman Jacob Nuawea said that the labor alliance has decided to fight for the implementation of a new and better remuneration system because the current one was ineffective in improving the welfare of workers.

"FSPSI is organizing a movement to force both employers and the government to adopt a remuneration system based on minimum human needs because with the current system, the worker's lot is still a poor one," he told The Jakarta Post here on Tuesday.

Jacob was responding to the planned increase by an average of 30 percent in the monthly minimum wages in eight provinces, including Aceh, North Sumatra, East Kalimantan and West and East Nusa Tenggara.

He said the determination of minimum wages must be based on the minimum human needs in the respective provinces.

"The minimum wage in Jakarta and surrounding areas such as Bekasi and Tangerang must be at least Rp 500,000, enough to cover minimum human needs in the region," he said, adding that, realistically speaking, even that amount of money was not sufficient for a worker in Jakarta to escape economic hardship.

He warned that labor strikes would be rampant in the future if the government continued "to maintain the current cheap labor policy".

"We will organize strikes in our work places, and hold demonstrations at the presidential palace, the House of Representatives building and governors' offices to protest these unfair minimum wages," he said.

He explained that the present minimum wages were unfair because they were based on 12 wage components, instead of the 45 factors contained in the minimum human needs index.

"The 45 components that constitute the minimum human needs index include not only the calories needed by a worker, better clothing and light, but also recreation, education, housing and healthcare," he said.

Separately, Muchtar Pakpahan, chairman of the Indonesian Prosperous Labor Union (SBSI) concurred and said that both employers and the government should show their commitment to improving the welfare of workers and their families.

Pakpahan claimed that employers were actually able to hike their workers' wages by around 100 percent but that they had declined to do so because of their profit-oriented mentality and the absence political will on the part of the government.

He said many SBSI units in provinces had declined to negotiate increases in the minimum wage because both the government and the employers had refused to grant increases of above 20 percent.

Achmad Husen Tambunan, chairman of the House's Commission VII on labor affairs and social welfare, supported the labor unions' demands for the phasing out of the present minimum wage system for similar reasons.

"Both the government and employers must forget the UMR system and promote a better remuneration system so as to rectify the poor condition of labor in this country," he said.

He added that the UMR system was no longer in line with the global trend on eradicating labor exploitation and the upcoming free trade era.

Meanwhile, Djimanto, deputy chairman of the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo), said most employers had no objection to increasing wages by around 100 percent if the employees concerned possessed the necessary skills.

"Most employers have declined to do so because the majority of their workers are elementary school graduates and dropouts," Djimanto, who was in Bangkok on Tuesday, told The Jakarta Post.

"If they had the skills they wouldn't work in labor intensive industries".

He pointed out that labor unions should also bear in mind that the planned hike in minimum wages in the eight provinces was set with the support of the regional tripartite wage commissions. (rms)