More than 1,300 people clashed with security guards at an Indonesian shoe factory which supplies sportswear giants Adidas and Mizuno, police said Thursday, months after they were sacked for striking over better pay.
The workers were laid off in July after walking out over demands for back pay following a hike in the minimum wage at the start of 2012.
Confirming the clashes during a rally at which the former workers were calling to be reinstated, Wahyu Widodo, police chief of Tangerang, said police were “helping mediate” between protesters and the owners of the Panarub Dwikarya factory.
Indonesia is an increasingly popular destination for major manufacturing companies, lured by cheap labour, but the 240 million-strong nation has witnessed frequent bouts of labour unrest as workers demand better pay and employment rights.
The scuffles in Tangerang, around 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Jakarta, abated when the company agreed to meet protest leaders late Thursday, although hundreds of former workers remained in the factory yard, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
The firm could not immediately be reached for comment.
“The workers want to be hired back, their children’s education is depending on it, and we want the company to sit together with us and work on an agreement,” said Ernawati – who like many Indonesians goes by one name – from the Independent Labour Union Alliance, which took part in the rally.
Adidas issued a statement after the July strike urging the factory, which the German company calls an “overflow” facility for its local supplier, to rehire the workers and pay the wages owed, pledging not to make fresh orders until the dispute is resolved.
Adidas was forced to probe its Indonesian operations in April after a report in a British newspaper alleged nine factories it used to produce Olympic shoes and clothing employed workers on 65-hour weeks for as little as 5,000 rupiah ($0.55) an hour.
Indonesia’s economy grew 6.5 percent in 2011 and attracted record foreign direct investment of $20 billion.
Yet Indonesian factory workers remain some of the lowest-paid in Asia, often earning less than their counterparts in China or India.
Hundreds of thousands of factory workers went on strike across Indonesia on October 3 demanding better pay and job security as Southeast Asia’s biggest economy booms.
In another major strike in January, workers in Bekasi blocked a toll road to the capital, leaving trucks and traffic snarled for 10 hours.