In the capital Jakarta, more than 15,000 police officers were deployed, backed by water cannons, to monitor thousands of protesters from a number of labour organisations marching through the city's streets, Jakarta city police spokesman I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana told Jakarta News.
Riot police equipped with shields and sticks and backed by trucks with mounted water cannons stood guard outside the presidential palace and the US embassy, which had barbed wire strung across its main gates, witnesses said.
In Jakarta, workers gathered in the Banteng Square represented several labor unions including the Labor Union of Indonesian People (SPRI), the Labor Union of Indonesian Informal Workers (Serbiindo), the Labor Union of Indonesian National Maritime (SBMNI), the Labor Union of National Transportation (SBTN), and the Labor Union of Indonesian Automotive (SPOI), as well as the Reform Tourism Labor Union Federation (FSP-PAR-Rev), the Indonesian Automotive Labor Union (SPO), the Indonesian Migrant Worker Union (SBMI), and the Demanding Worker Alliance.
Other cities where workers rallied for the May Day included Surabaya, Malang (East Java), Medan (North Sumatra), Manado (North Sulawesi, Yogyakarta, Solo (Central Java), Palu (Central Sulawesi), Bandung (West Java), Makassar (South Sulawesi) and Denpasar (Bali).
Labor activists say that employers are using outsourcing practices to avoid giving workers pensions or other funds and making them permanent employees.
The Indonesian government has also come under fire for its perceived failure to protect Indonesian workers abroad, although it has deflected some of the blame onto the migrants workers for using illegal means and unofficial agencies to get abroad.
In many cases, Indonesians workers have been severely exploited and some even murdered by their foreign employers.
The following is from AFP.
Indonesian workers hold rallies to protest against rising food, fuel costs
Thousands of Indonesians took to the streets of the capital Jakarta for Labour Day rallies on Thursday, with rising food prices and an expected cut in fuel subsidies weighing heavily on workers' minds.
"We are expecting more than 40,000 people demonstrating today," policeman Hariyadi said as thousands of workers gathered at the central Imam Bonjol traffic circle.
Carrying banners reading "Lower Food Prices Now" and "More Pay for Workers and Farmers," many of the demonstrators said they were alarmed at soaring inflation and the prospect of sharply higher fuel bills.
"We want the price of kerosene to come down. Food is getting expensive," said garment factory worker Yuningsih.
Factory worker Lia said: "If they keep increasing the price of food, maybe we'll have to eat less.
"The price of formula milk for the baby has gone up. It's now 36,000 rupiah (nearly four dollars) for a can of 600 grams and the baby drinks it up in two days," she said.
Tarjiman, who was marching with a group of garment factory workers, said people would go hungry if inflation was not brought under control.
"I feel it very hard with the increasing prices. We have to borrow money before the end of the month and try to work extra odd jobs.
"If the price keeps going up, we'll be hungry."
High food prices helped drive Indonesia's annual inflation rate to 8.17 percent in March, the biggest increase since October 2006.
Prices are expected to keep rising, with the government considering hiking subsidised fuel prices in June by almost 30 percent to minimise the impact of record oil prices on the national budget.
Many workers were also concerned that their rights were being eroded through companies' growing use of contract labourers hired from employment agents.
Jakarta police chief Adang Firman told reporters after monitoring the capital from a helicopter that 10,000 security personnel had been deployed to control the rallies and another 50,000 were on standby.
All May Day rallies were banned in Surabaya, the country's second largest city, because the workers' holiday coincided with a religious holiday, police said.
"Rallies are not allowed during a public holiday. Let's respect Jesus Ascension day," Surabaya police chief Anang Iskandar told state news agency Antara.
"If there are rallies, we'll break them up."