By Max Lane
A new, independent trade union, the Centre for Indonesian Working Class Struggle (PPBI) was launched at a congress in Ambarawa, Central Java, October 22-23. More than 100 delegates represented workers from factory committees based in Jakarta, Tangerang, Bogor, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Solo, Salatiga, Surabaya and Medan. The congress adopted the slogan: "Fight against oppression; gaining prosperity for workers".
The PPBI adopted both a general program and a program of demands. The key elements of the general program included the struggle for wage and allowance increases, improved conditions and health standards, the end of the government's cheap labour policy, the return of the workers' rights to establish their own organisations, the return of the workers' rights to free assembly, free speech and to strike, the repeal of all anti-worker regulations and laws, an end to all military intervention in industrial affairs, direct involvement of workers in all policy formulation affecting workers, removal of all discrimination against women workers and an end to child labour.
Specific demands include the establishment of a national minimum wage of Rp5000 (A$3.30) per day, the repeal of a regulation which allows only the government's yellow union, a new progressive tax system that applies only to incomes above Rp1 million (A$660) per month and the implementation of minimum redundancy payments.
PPBI is also calling for the establishment of a democratic and independent court system that will strictly implement sanctions against capitalists who violate workers rights.
The process of building factory committees has been going on for at least five years. Former students as well as young workers have formed worker support groups and later factory committees. These committees have led local factory struggles for wage improvements and the right to organise in many factories over the last few years.
PPBI is the third independent workers organisation to be established in Indonesia. Although formed only in October, it has an estimated following of between 10,000 and 15,000 workers, and is rapidly expanding.
PPBI-led strikes occurred on September 28 and again on October 24 at the Swiss Bakery plant in Jakarta. The 250 workers were demanding minimum wage payments. The local Kodim (district military command) intervened to disperse the strike and later intimidated workers in their homes.
On October 25, 200 PPBI workers at the Plastindo plastic factory at Semarang went on strike. They demonstrated outside the factory, demanding an end to unequal wages between men and women workers, reduction of the working hours from eight hours with no break to eight hours with a one-hour meal break, an increase in food allowances and the provision of a transportation allowance.
On October 26, following threats by the local Kodim against the workers, the PPBI joined the Students in Solidarity with Democracy in Indonesia (SSDI) in a demonstration outside the Semarang provincial parliament. Other strikes in the Jakarta industrial area of Pluit took place in early November demanding that textile factories in the area pay minimum wages.
Dita Sari, PPBI general secretary, has been in Perth attending the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council Indian Ocean Trade Union Conference. She will also be speaking in Melbourne and Sydney as a guest of Aksi — Indonesia Solidarity Action.
Melbourne: AWD Blue Room, 124 Napier St, Fitzroy. Thurs, Dec 1, 6.30pm.
Sydney: Maritime Workers Union, 61 Sussex St. Sat, Dec 3, 7.30pm. For information phone (02) 690 1230.