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Workers across Indonesia go on 2-day strike

Indonesian workers march during a rally against low wages in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct 31, 2013. Thousands of workers staged the rally demanding the Jakarta government to set a new regional minimum wage at Rp. 3,7 million (US $325). (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Laborers across Indonesia began a two-day strike Thursday demanding benefits and higher pay while protesting the hiring of contract workers.

Said Iqbal, chairman of the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions, estimated that about 2 million workers in 20 of the country's 34 provinces walked off the job. Police, however, said the numbers were much lower than that because many ignored the call to strike.

Iqbal said the main demand is a minimum wage hike, which would raise salaries in the capital, Jakarta, to 3.7 million rupiah ($330) per month. The same workers were given a 44 percent pay increase following similar protests last year that involved hundreds of thousands of workers nationwide.

The laborers also are demanding that the government provide benefits and end the hiring of temporary contract workers, Iqbal said.

Iqbal said at least three people were injured after being stabbed during a clash with members of a youth organization who were angered when some striking laborers tried to force others to walk off the job.

Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto, who like many Indonesians uses one name, said more than 17,300 security personnel were deployed to safeguard the capital and surrounding areas.

The cost of living has increased dramatically in Indonesia after the government cut fuel subsidies this summer amid soaring inflation and a weakening of the local currency against the dollar.