Wed, 29 Nov 2000

Thousands of workers protest in Surabaya

SURABAYA (JP): In one of the country's largest protests in recent months, some 30,000 industrial workers took to the streets here on Tuesday to demand higher wages.

Some protesters overturned vehicles belonging to provincial government officials, including the deputy chief of the provincial planning agency, Syahrazad Masdar, and looted them.

Police made at least one arrest but the violence was quickly contained, witnesses said.

The workers came from household equipment producer PT Maspion and shoemakers PT Fortune and PT Cahaya Cemerlang as well as other factories in Sidoarjo, an industrial town outside the East Java capital.

The demonstration capped four days of protest over low pay.

Union leaders said they were protesting a recently passed ordinance which set a lower minimum wage than in other towns in the province.

Following negotiation between the workers' representatives and Deputy Governor Imam Supardi, the local government agreed to the protester's demands and provisionally raised the town's minimum monthly wage from Rp 328,300 to Rp 330,700.

At least two companies of riot police and one water cannon were deployed on Tuesday to disperse the protesters.

The protests started at about 9 a.m. on Tuesday when factory workers began to gather in front of their respective factories.

They then moved in a convoy to the governor's office on Jl. Pahlawan. The protests caused a massive traffic jam in the city.

East Java Governor Imam Utomo was quoted as saying later on Tuesday that those responsible for the trouble should be arrested.

"The workers should be held responsible for the incident," Imam said.

Some provincial officials were also quoted as saying that Tuesday's incident had marred the holy Ramadhan fasting month.

The government has announced that official monthly minimum wage levels in eight provinces outside Java will rise by an average of about 30 percent as of Jan. 1, 2001. Increases in the other provinces are still being negotiated. (nur)