Listen to RadioLabour's interview with Djufnie Ashary.
The strike covers diverse industries and occupations including outsourced healthcare, education, factory, airport, port and transport workers across the country. It is estimated that more than three million workers will participate in the strike.
Djufnie Ashary is president of the Federation of Pharmaceutical and Health Workers Union (FSP. FARKES/R), the main PSI affiliate participating in this general strike. This union represents 28,000 members who work in the hospital, pharmaceutical, traditional herbs and cosmetics sectors.
Ashary reports that the low standard of living, the lack of healthcare coverage for all Indonesians, outsourcing and the increasing rise of temporary work in state enterprises, combined with regressive government labour policies are driving his members to take strike action.
He explains that trade union members are demanding a higher minimum wage (currently an average of 220 USD per month) because of the rising inflation rate, and the increase in the price of petrol that is driving up costs for transportation and staple foods. “Another factor is because the currency devaluation of Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) to USD has caused prices to increase for most imported goods. So the minimum wage hike is not a real increase but is just an adjustment.”
Universal access to healthcare is another major demand, he says. “The total population of Indonesia today is about 241million people. According to our earlier agreement with government, health care will cover all Indonesian people at the same time, starting January 2014. But now the government says it will introduce healthcare in stages, covering about 76 million people first, and the rest will be covered by 2019. This plan is rejected by unions.”
According to a report by independent trade union journalist Arunasalam.P, Said Iqbal, president of FSPMI (metal workers) and leader of KSPI (Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions) says that employers cannot continue to mistreat and exploit workers to optimise profit at the misery, pain and sufferings of the working class.
On 21 October, Indonesian unions held a massive gathering of about 20,000 workers for a national dialogue as the prelude to the national strike. Chants of solidarity and "hidup buroh" reverberated at the Senayang indoor stadium where speaker after speaker demanded that Indonesian workers be treated with dignity.
Working people believe that Indonesia, with its vast natural and human resources, must move away from the low wage and cheap labour model, curb exploitation of workers, improve wages and working condition and generate secure gainful employment.
Iqbal has called for international solidarity support for the strike. He calls upon global union federations and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) to support the cause of the struggle and send observers to monitor the strike.