RNZI: Difficult conditions remain for Freeport’s Papua workers‎

RNZI Posted at 07:32 on 14 July, 2011 UTC
Striking workers at Freeport-McMoran’s gold and copper mine in Indonesia’s Papua province have returned to work after their union said the firm agreed to its demands in the latest round of talks.
The estimated 7-thousand workers had been demanding higher wages and were protesting against the dismissal of six union leaders.
Their eight-day strike crippled operations at the remote Grasberg mine, which contains the world’s largest recoverable reserves of copper and the biggest single gold reserve. Johnny Blades reports that Freeport’s Papua staff work under uniquely difficult conditions:
Freeport management has granted the reinstatement of the sacked unionists, and has agreed to further negotiations on wage rates.
Nick Chesterfield of West Papua Media Alerts says no real concessions have been made to the workers who are said to be paid up to 10 times less than what other Freeport workers around the world earn.
“People who are working significant hours, and their welfare is not being looked after. They’re only earning about a dollar-fifty (US) an hour for extremely dangerous conditions. They wanted their pay to be raised to three dollars. Freeport are out there, making massive amounts of profit and not giving anything back to the workers or the people.”
Not all employees at Freeport were happy with the industrial action.
One non-striking worker who wishes to remain unnamed warns that any wage increases would incur a cost for the local community.
“It will be impact to other sub-contractors for Freeport. They will lose their jobs because their company cannot pay for the high salary in their company like Freeport. And the other people in Timika – like police, like local government, community – will get a problem because for meals, for transportation, for gasoline, the price will rise up like that.”
Freeport workers have recently been demanding guarantees of safety at Grasberg.
An Indonesian human rights activist, Andreas Harsono, says the deaths of two staff in an attack in April are still fresh in workers’ memories.
“They also had a strike last year, demanding better security. The problem with security in Freeport is not always coming from the West Papua guerilla fighters. Sometimes it also comes from Indonesian security forces. The Indonesian military police used to be bought earlier this year but the ones who shot (workers) at Freeport mine were actually three Indonesian soldiers.”
Andreas Harsono hears many complaints from Freeport personnel about the conduct of the Indonesian security forces around the mine.
There are 3,000 of these forces in the area and the soldiers tend to act as a law unto themselves.
“The solders sometimes go beyond their duties like selling protection, involved in illegal alcohol sales, prostitution, and of course hunting, because it is so difficult to control the soldiers in the jungle and mountains around Freeport.”
For the strike to end, the union wanted Freeport’s Indonesia CEO Armando Mahler to be included in negotiations over pay.
Union leaders say Mr Mahler will be involved intermittently in pay talks, which are due to start next week

Thousands of Freeport Indonesia mine workers start 7-day strike

Grasberg mine
Image via Wikipedia


By Samuel Wanda
TIMIKA, Indonesia | Sun Jul 3, 2011 10:27pm EDT

(Reuters) – About 8,000 workers at Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc’s Indonesian unit kicked off a seven-day strike on Monday, a union head said, in a move that could potentially disrupt operations.

Freeport said it was not anticipating any impact on production at the mine it claims on its website contains the world’s largest single gold reserve.

Freeport’s Indonesia unit runs the Grasberg mine in the remote Papua province, where a separatist insurgency and struggle over resources has lingered for decades.

The workers have called for a re-negotiation of their working contract, demanding a wage rise from $1.5 to $3 per hour, since they said other Freeport workers around the world are paid at least $15-30 per hour, a union official said.

“We see that from eight companies Freeport owned, Indonesia is the biggest contributor in terms of revenue … We deserve something more,” Virgo Solossa, the organisational head of Freeport Indonesia’s Labor Union, told Reuters by telephone.

“We are not going to rally, we are just going on a strike, sitting tight doing nothing,” Solossa added.

Thousands of workers marched from Timika city to Kuala Kencana, the Freeport town complex, on Monday morning, although many have yet to reach the Freeport complex since roads are being blockaded by police.

“We are not anticipating any impact to production,” Freeport’s Jakarta-based spokesman Ramdani Sirait said in an emailed statement, in response to a question on potential disruption to gold and copper output.

“The management calls all employees to keep working … the company sees there is no legitimate justification for any form of strike, therefore it is unlawful because it is not due to failed negotiation nor the company’s unwillingness to negotiate,” Sirait said.

Freeport, which also has mines in North America, South America and the Democratic Republic of Congo, expects its copper output to fall 17 percent this year to about 1 billion pounds by weight.

Freeport: Workers warn management of strike action next week

JUBI, 25 June 2011
The local branch of the union of energy and mining workers at
Freeport-Indonesia announced on Friday 24 June that it had set a
deadline of 4 July for its decision to organise a strike at Freeport.

The intention to take strike action was announced by the chair of the
Freeport branch, Virgo Solossa.

‘We are keeping the door open for the management to recognise our
legitimate demand for talks but if the management makes no response, the
strike will go ahead.’

Since the weekend all the workers on the low-land and high-land company
premises have been wearing black arm bands as a sign of the death of
industrial partnership.which the company has until now praised.

The cause for the strike action is that a number of members of the union
are threatened with dismissal for allegedly being absent from work.

‘This is an act of discrimination and intimidation against our right as
leading members of the union. We have no intention of allowing this to
happen, and give the management until 3 July. If they fail to response,
then any question of industrial partnership will be regarded as
dead.,’said Virgo.

The action will involved the 8,000 workers at the company.

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