AFP: Freeport Workers in Papua Vow to Paralyze Production

Agence France-Presse
October 7, 2011

Freeport Workers in Indonesia Vow to Halt Production

Workers at one of the world’s largest gold and copper mine in the
remote Indonesian province of Papua vowed on Friday to paralyze
production, as their strike over pay enters its second month.

Workers at the Grasberg mining complex run by US giant
Freeport-McMoran began a month long strike on September 15, demanding
at least an eight-fold increase in the current minimum wage of $1.50
an hour.

“If we don’t get the pay increase we want, our goal is to stop
production by November 15,” said Virgo Solossa, spokesman for the
workers’ union, which extended the strike by a month on Thursday.

“Freeport has tried to intimidate us to go back to work, but we won’t
until they are open to a fair negotiation,” he said, adding that at
least 8,000 of the company’s 23,000 workers would remain on strike.

The Arizona-based company said it was “disappointed” by the union’s
decision, “which has no basis under Indonesian law.”

It added that some workers were gradually returning to work, “allowing
the company to scale up mine production, milling production and
concentrate sales.”

Production at Grasberg, one of the world’s largest sources of gold and
copper, has suffered considerably since the strike.

Production in the first week of the strike last month was slashed by
230,000 tons a day, representing daily losses of $6.7 million in
government revenue.

Slowing production at Grasberg, coupled with a spate of strikes at
Freeport’s South American mines, has raised concerns of a global
copper shortage, analysts said.

Freeport’s Papuan workers, who are mostly indigenous Melanesians,
receive the lowest wages of any Freeport mining facility in the world,
according to union workers.

The current lowest wage is $1.50 an hour, which workers want raised to
$12.50, the union said. The workers want the maximum hourly rate of
$3.50 to rise to $37.

The union had originally demanded a minimum of $17.50 and a maximum of $43.

“We have followed all the right procedures to strike, which is our
right. So we hope the company will make a fairer offer soon,” Solossa,
the union spokesman, said.

The company has offered a 25 percent increase on wages, which the
union rejected.

Freeport Indonesia is the largest single taxpayer to the Indonesian
government, contributing billions of dollars a year to state coffers.

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