Indonesia students, workers rally against new labor law

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment.

The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change Indonesia’s labor system and natural resources management. It amended 79 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by President Joko Widodo’s administration to attract more investment to the country.

The demonstrators say the law will hurt workers by reducing severance pay, removing restrictions on manual labor by foreign workers, increasing the use of outsourcing, and converting monthly wages to hourly.

Police in the capital, Jakarta, prevented labor groups from holding a mass rally in front of Parliament, and they have held at least 200 high school students who were attempted to reach the parliament compound for protests, Jakarta police said Yusri Yunus said Thursday.

“They have been provoked by invitation on social media to create a riot in Jakarta,” Yunus said.

However, thousands of university students and workers have committed to take part in mass rallies in front of the Parliament building and the presidential palace on Thursday, leading authorities to block streets leading to both compounds in downtown Jakarta.

Similar rallies were also held in Bandung, the capital of West Java province, where clashes between rock-throwing students and riot police broke out since Tuesday when police tried to disperse the protesters by firing tear gas and water cannons.

Protests also occurred in other Indonesian cities on Thursday, including in Yogyakarta, Medan, Palembang and Makassar.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is eagerly courting foreign investors as key drivers of economic growth in a nation where nearly half the population of 270 million are younger than 30.

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