Wed, 23 Feb 2000

Workers left to grin and bear planned minimum wage hike

JAKARTA (JP): Workers in the greater Jakarta area who receive the minimum wage said on Tuesday a planned raise would make little difference in their spending power due to the spiraling cost of living.

Interviewed by The Jakarta Post separately, casual laborers, including factory workers, street sweepers and janitors, said they were dissatisfied with the proposed increase but had no option other than to accept if they wanted to keep their job.

They feared that rejecting the proposal amid continuing economic hardships could lead to them joining the ranks of the unemployed.

They told of scrimping and saving to survive, including through bringing meals from home and making sure expenditures are limited to their basic needs.

"The living costs here for a single man like me is about Rp 250,000 (about US$35) at average per month," said Sugiarti, a factory worker in nearby Tangerang.

"If the new minimum wage is Rp 286,000 per month, it will not make any difference in my life."

Another worker, Sadino, nodded in agreement.

"We don't have anything left at the end of each month for savings," he said.

Several janitors at the City Council complex said they were paid below the minimum wage.

Surya, who has worked for a cleaning service company for 10 years, said he received Rp 165,000 per month.

His colleague, Dian, added the company cut Rp 3,500 from their wages for each day they missed work.

Both men admitted that it was almost impossible to rely solely on their monthly income.

"We always bring our own lunch from home to cover our meal expenses," said Dian, saying a cup of instant noodles available in the compound cost Rp 2,500.

They depend on the generosity of city councilors, who often give them tips, Suryana said.

"Sometimes they ask us to run an errand for them and in return they give us small tip for our services," he said.

"But most of the new councilors here are not as generous as their predecessors."

The Ministry of Manpower announced on Monday an increase in the official regional minimum wage level, ranging between 15 percent and 55 percent, from April 1. The level in Jakarta will be increased 23.81 percent to Rp 286,000, from Rp 231,000.


Two Central Jakarta street sweepers, who work for Sarana Organtama Resik, said they struggled to make ends meet each month on wages below the minimum level.

Newly hired Fajar, 19, said he earned Rp 4,350 daily (Rp 130,500 per month). He said he spent Rp 1,000 daily on transportation from his home in Pondok Terong in Citayam, Depok, and Rp 1,500 for lunch.

The rest he saves to help finance his brothers' elementary school educations.

He said his only choice was to continue working as a street sweeper until he could find a better job.

"I plan to continue my studies later but my priority at the moment is to finance my two younger brothers' schooling."

Titi S.P., who has been working as a street sweeper since last August, earns Rp 8,900 per day.

She spends Rp 1,000 for the daily return bus fare from her house in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta, Rp 2,000 for lunch and some Rp 15,000 for her family of three teenagers.

"I want my sons to finish their studies," she said, adding that her husband was a public minivan driver.

"I have to spend the money carefully so that it will last for one month."

In Tangerang, the branch of the All-Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) rejected the 17 percent minimum wage raise to be implemented in both the regency and mayoralty.

"It's such a small amount that it undermines the laborers here. We want similar raise to what was given to Jakarta," SPSI's Agus Djaya said on Tuesday.

"We will visit Bandung on Wednesday to meet with Governor Nuriana about the matter."

SPSI's Tangerang chairman Hermanto Achmad said a commensurate raise to Jakarta's 23.81 percent, or Rp 286,000, must be given equally to workers in Greater Jakarta, spanning Tangerang, Bogor and Bekasi.

"It's most unfair," he said, adding that daily living expenses in Tangerang were similar to Jakarta.

Some companies operating in Tangerang say they are considering requesting a postponement of the raise for their enterprises.

"We'll evaluate the matter. The company is still suffering from effects of the high-cost bureaucracy and we don't have such a huge budget," said Soedjoedono, president director of footwear manufacturer PT Garuda Indawa.

The chief of staff at another footwear firm PT Tae Wha, Djajadi, also said his company would evaluate the matter but "will comply with the government's decision".

"The raise (in Tangerang) from the minimum Rp 230,000 to Rp 286,000 is normal." (05/06/41/edt/ind)