Jakarta: Tens of thousands of workers went on strike across Indonesia on Thursday, in the latest industrial action to hit Southeast Asia`s top economy as its citizens seek a greater share of the spoils from stellar growth.
Unions are calling for hefty pay rises as the cost of living skyrockets due to surging inflation, which has been driven up in recent months by an unpopular fuel price hike.
Factories producing everything from clothes to electronics, often for international companies, stopped operations as workers across the country downed tools on day one of a two-day strike.
Union leaders said that two million took part in the action across the archipelago.
Their figures are usually higher than those given by the police, who said around 60,000 had walked out in the capital and surrounding districts and there were also small strikes and demonstrations in other parts of the country.
Security was tight with more than 17,000 police mobilised in Jakarta and surrounding areas.
Thousands of workers in uniform marched past deserted factories in Pulogadung industrial estate in East Jakarta, led by a truck with people shouting from loudspeakers.
Hundreds of strikers rode motorcycles, waved banners and shouted: "Long live the workers" and "Raise our pay".
"I am not asking to live in a castle or sleep on a bed of gold, just for what we deserve from working so hard to contribute to the economy," said Achmad, 46, a welder who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
The protests were largely peaceful although police said that some windows were smashed and motorbikes pushed over in the industrial hub of Bekasi, just outside Jakarta.
Elsewhere, police said around 5,000 took part in the strike in Surabaya in East Java province, and 1,000 downed tools in Makassar on the central island of Sulawesi.
TV pictures also showed crowds striking in the industrial hub of Batam island, near Singapore, although police did not have an estimate of the numbers involved.
"All factories in Java`s industrial hubs have stopped," said Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Workers Union, adding that the strike would affect 20 of the nation`s 34 provinces.
With inflation hitting 8.4 per cent year-on-year in September, Iqbal said ordinary people were deeply concerned over the rising cost of living.
"Many workers who could not afford their rents have had to move out of their homes and live under bridges and in sewers. They are eating instant noodles instead of rice."