Thousands of Indonesian workers yesterday held Asia’s biggest May Day rally, demanding better pay and job security, watched warily by a heavy police and army contingent.
Colorful protests organized by trade unions and left-wing parties across Asia shared the theme of better wages and conditions, and denunciations of government policy, as living costs spike in fast-growing economies.
Carrying banners saying “raise our salaries” and “stop outsourcing contracts,” more than 9,000 workers gathered at Jakarta’s main roundabout before marching to the state palace.
About 16,000 police and soldiers were deployed to control the protest, Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto told reporters.
“Living costs have gone up, but our salaries remain unchanged. We only make enough to eat, but there is no money in the bank, no money for our children’s education,” protest leader Muhamad Rusdi said.
Raising the minimum wage was the main demand for about 5,000 workers, domestic helpers and activists who held a noisy procession through central Hong Kong, clashing cymbals and chanting demands on the territory’s incoming government.
In Manila, about 3,000 workers and activists marched to the presidential palace, bearing a giant effigy of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, which depicted him as a dog obedient to foreign capitalists.
However, in a Labor Day speech, Aquino said: “If our wages go even higher, what foreign investor will put his money here? Our economy could fall even further behind.”
Meanwhile, thousands of workers across southern Europe protested against spending cuts in May Day rallies, before weekend elections in Greece and France.
Unions in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France were using the traditional marches to express their anger over an austerity drive across the eurozone, aimed at shoring up public finances, but criticized for forcing countries deeper into recession.
About 5,000 Greek workers, pensioners and students marched peacefully to parliament in Athens holding banners reading “Revolt now” and “Tax the rich.” Another 1,500 supporting the Communist PAME rallied outside a steel factory.
In Portugal, the country’s two main labor unions expected tens of thousands of workers to join rallies in Lisbon and other main cities.
Additional reporting by Reuters