Indonesia has a long history of violent industrial conflict involving rioting and wide–scale destruction of property, in addition – and sometimes as an alternative – to more orthodox strike actions. Violent actions taken by wage labourers on the plantations as a form of protest against their employers were recorded in the archipelago in the nineteenth century (Stoler 1985, 1995). Episodes of violent industrial protest continued through the twentieth century, but were particularly common in industrial areas in the late 1980s and 1990s, at a time when independent labour organizing was forbidden under the punitive labour relations regime implemented by Suharto’s authoritarian New Order (1967–1998). Despite dramatic changes to the industrial relations system, including significant improvements in collective bargaining structures and in workers’ access to the freedom to organize, industrial violence continues to have a place in the repertoires of action of waged labour in contemporary Indonesia.
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