Factory workers, journalists unite for May Day rally

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Jakarta Post – May 2, 2008

Dicky Christanto, Denpasar – Protesters at a May Day rally held in Denpasar on Thursday accused the government of failing to protect Indonesians working longer hours for no extra pay.

The alliance of organizations commemorating the May 1 International Workers’ Day displayed dozens of banners while activists gave speeches about how “unfriendly” government policies had jeopardized workers’ lives.

Rally coordinator Samsul Arifin said the government had systematically weakened workers’ conditions by allowing employers to enforce double shifts for less money.

“Most businesspeople are completely aware that workers don’t have a choice but to continue working,” he told the crowd, which included members of the Alliance of People for Democracy and Human Rights (ARDHAM) from student organizations, rights activists and pro-bono lawyer organizations.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention No.47/1935 stipulates employees work eight hours a day.

Samsul said factory workers as well as those from other sectors, such as office employees and even journalists, were subjected to such conditions.

Anton Muhajir of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) said it was ironic journalists often covered stories about the mistreatment of workers, as they themselves were underpaid. He said this often caused ethical problems, as some journalists accepted money from their sources while covering stories.

“If media owners are really concerned about building an impartial media there is no other way but to pay serious attention to improving journalists’ economic conditions,” he said.

A group of Papuan students calling themselves the Front of West Papuan Struggle also held a rally for Papuan independence near the governor’s office, but it ended abruptly after police dispersed the crowd by force.

Head of city police Sr. Comr. Alit Widana, who was on the site, said the Papuan students’ rally was dismissed by force because the rally organizers had not yet acquired a permit from the police. “Besides, the issue of independence is not included in their application for the permit,” he told reporters.

Some students were arrested by the city police, who also confiscated fliers calling for Papuan independence, banners and spears used as accessories in their traditional dancing.

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