Tag Archives: strike breaking

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.

Freeport Strikes Could Just Work

with New Matilda.com

7 Oct 2011

Freeport Strikes Could Just Work

By Alex Rayfield and Claudia King

Renewed strikes at West Papua‘s Grasberg mine have caught the Indonesian government off guard – and signal a shifting power balance in the province, report Alex Rayfield and Claudia King

Workers at the Freeport McMoRan mine in West Papua resumed strikes on 15 September after more than six weeks of unresolved negotiation talks with company management.

Increasing numbers of international media are covering the workers’ return to strikes, the first of which ended in July after eight days of work stoppage that halted production at the Grasberg mine.

However, national and international media have focused solely on worker demands for an increase in their hourly pay rate — ignoring the history of Freeport’s unfair and even illegal treatment of the mine’s so-called “non-staff” workers.

West Papuan workers receive the lowest wages ($1.50-$3.00) of any Freeport mining facility in the world, despite the fact that their work accounts for 95 per cent of the company’s consolidated gold production, and a substantial percentage of Freeport’s copper production. According to NASDAQ, Freeport has reaped astonishingly high profits from the low labour costs at the West Papuan site, enabling the company “margins in excess of 60 per cent in past years”.

Indonesian energy minister Darwin Zahedy Saleh estimates the Indonesian government alone could lose as much as $6.7 million in tax revenues, royalties and other payments from Freeport every day the strike carried on. Leaders of the All Indonesian Workers Union (freeport division) have said they will agree to a 25 per cent wage increase (down from demands for increases of up to $200 per hour) but Freeport management is so far refusing to lift their offer higher than 22 per cent.

However, media coverage of the strikes is missing Freeport’s long history of suppressing workers’ rights and union organising in Papua, not to mention the historical context and legacy of poor industrial relations out of which these strikes have emerged.

For one, Freeport McMoRan’s contract of work with the Indonesian government was signed prior to a scheduled referendum on West Papua’s political status. The UN had granted Indonesian temporary control over the region in 1963 but by the time the “Act of Free Choice” of 1969 was ready to proceed, only 1,022 West Papuans — less than 0.01 per cent of the population at the time — participated. In reality there was no referendum and no vote. Papuans were told by Indonesian military generals to vote for Indonesian rule or have “their tongues cut out”. Unsurprisingly, in this atmosphere of intimidation, 100 per cent choose to support West Papua’s incorporation.

But Freeport McMoRan, subsidiary PT Freeport Indonesia, did not even wait for this farce. The US Company made a deal with the Indonesian dictator Suharto, who was waging military operations in West Papua at the time. Freeport signed their first contract of work in 1967, two years before the 1969 Act of Free Choice. Under Suharto an authoritarian management style became entrenched. Dissent by workers and the local Papuan landowners were repressed harshly by the military.

Secondly, Indigenous West Papuans’ cultural, and economic livelihoods, which are dependent on a healthy natural environment, have been disrupted by Freeport’s arrival. It is no wonder that local communities resisted both violently and nonviolently to the company’s takeover of large swaths of their territory. In fact, Papuan resistance to Freeport has always been connected to Papuan resistance to Indonesia’s repressive “neocolonial” rule, which has now lasted over 50 years and according to Amnesty International resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people.

Alongside West Papua’s pro-independence movement are workers, both native Papuans and Indonesian migrants, organising for fair pay, basic rights to organise without threats and intimidation from Freeport management, and the provision of equal facilities for local workers as their foreign worker counterparts, including: housing, health care, education, and pension funds.

They are demanding the freedom to organise as workers, to strike and demonstrate without threats, intimidation, or interference from Freeport management or local police, and without penalty of receiving no pay or the risk of losing their jobs. Freeport has now engaged global security contractors Securicor (now G4S), to break the strike.

Union leaders are maintaining vigilant documentation of violations by the various security apparatus. Since resuming the strike, workers have received messages from officials viaSMS, and visits to their family homes by Freeport staff and security who threaten to withhold pay and fire striking workers. Barracks near the mine’s entrance in Tembagapura were raided by officials, some whom were allegedly foreign nationals, who according to workers ordered miners to sign an agreement to end the strike.

The most disturbing incident was the attempted shooting of Union Chairman Sudiro while in his home on September 11, 2011 by “persons unknown”, a phrase in Indonesia that is often shorthand for the Indonesian military.

In a significant escalation of resistance, leaders of the Amungme and Kamoro tribes — the two customary landowner groups who own the land Freeport is mining — are supporting the striking workers. Senior tribal leaders Anis Natkime, Canisius Amareyau, Viktor Beanal and youth leaders Jecky Amisim and Donny Emayauta have written to Freeport CEO James Moffett and Freeport President Richard Adkerson to ask the company to agree to worker’s demands.

Failing this the tribal leaders threaten to close Freeport’s entire operations from the Amungme highlands of the 4,200 metre high Grasberg mine down to the Kamoro lowland port of Amapare. In doing so, these leaders are throwing off decades of fear and trauma brought about by repressive Indonesian military operations in support of Freeport. Abuses include the forced removal of villages and massacres by Indonesian military and police personnel who have never been held to account.

Although Indigenous communities living in and around the site of the Grasberg mine are supposed to receive a percentage of the profits from mining extraction as a part of an agreement known as the “1 per cent fund” community leaders claim the funds, which are routed through Jakarta, never reach the local community. The fund has also created conflict and competition between tribes.

While there is no guarantee that workers and community leaders will achieve their goals or address long-standing grievances, the worker strikes have caught Freeport and the government off guard, and awoken them to the reality that they are no longer uncontested power-holders in the region. Instead they will be forced to shift their practices one way or another, or else face serious economic and reputational losses.

The strike also threatens to have much wider repercussions than mere pay rises. West Papuan independence leaders in other parts of the country are preparing to organise the third national gathering of Papuan resistance groups. These leaders are watching the events at Freeport closely. When the three-day Third Papua Congress opens in Jayapura/Port Numbay on 16 October you can be sure that grievances around Freeport will be high on the agenda.

Freeport-Indonesia wages the lowest in the world, according to SPSI

Bintang Papua, 3 October 2011Thousands of workers from Freeport Indonesia  have been on strike since 15 September demanding higher wages and better personal welfare, bearing in mind  the great risks that their work involves. The wages they currently receive are far from adequate and are way below the wages paid in mines elsewhere the world.

‘Of all the mining companies anywhere in the world, the wages paid to workers at Freeport are the lowest. even though the risks they take are extremely high, working at a depth of 4,200 meters. It’s very dusty, high rainfall and extremely cold, as we mine copper, gold, silver and other minerals,’ said Frans Wonmaly, member of the executive committee of the trade union SBSI.

In 2006 the workers’ pay in North America was $10.70 an hour, in South America, it was $10.10 an hour but in Indonesia it was only $0.98 an hour. In 2010, the pay had reached on average $66.43 an hour, whereas in Indonesia it was only  $4.42 – $7.356 an hour

‘As compared with mining companies elsewhere in the world, the difference is like heaven and earth, and this is why we are making demands from the management,’ he said. All they were asking for was a rise to $30-$50 an hour.

Wonmaly strongly denied a recent statement by Armando Mahler, president-director of Freeport Indonesia to the effect that the workers would be losing Rp 570,000 a day.’ I personally have reached Grade 3 and I only get Rp7 million a month. If I were getting Rp570,000 a day I would be receiving Rp17.2 million a month,’ he said, while holding up the joint contract book.  As yet, negotiations between the workers on strike and the management have not made any progress. Despite the mediation of the labour affairs ministry in Jakarta, there is a deadlock.’The management has not shown any intention to recognise the aspirations of their workforce.’

Furthermore, the management is spreading propoaganda, sending sms messages to the families of the workers and spreading reports in the local media that the workers should go back to work. Wonmaly said that the strike will continue until their demands have been fully met by the company. ‘It will continue till 16 October and if by then, negotiations have still led nowhere, the workers have agreed call in lawyers and take the dispute to court.’

According to a spokesman of the company, 1,217 contract workers have returned to work.in the higher reaches of the mine which they travel to daily by 23 buses.

The production and dispatch of concentrates is now very limited, while the management have expressed their appreciation to those workers who have remained at work.

State is obliged to protect striking PT Freeport Indonesia workers

Statement by the Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle – September 28, 2011

We fully support the strike by PT Freeport Indonesia workers for better wages and conditions. The government must guarantee legal protection to the workers and protect them against intimidation and threats while they are on strike and conducting negotiations with the company in accordance with Law Number 13/2003 on Labour.

The strike by around 8,000 PT. Freeport Indonesia employees in Timika, West Papua, is to demand that the management bring their wages into line with PT Freeport Mc Moran wage standards in other countries. Freeport currently pays its workers as little as US$1.50 and hour and workers are demanding that this be increased to US$3 (25,000 rupiah) an hour. Freeport workers in other countries currently receive an hourly wage of US$15 or 128,250 rupiah per hour.

The Freeport management has refused to fulfill the workers’ demands. A tripartite meeting has been held between the government, Freeport management and workers, but the workers have still not succeeded in reaching an agreement.

Since the strike began on September 15, there have been numerous incidents of pressure and intimidation against the workers, either directly by the Freeport management or through the arrogant actions of the police and the Mobile Brigade (Brimob).

This includes the attempted shooting of PT Freeport Indonesia All Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) chairperson Sudiro on September 11, the removal of employees’ rights through the “No Work, No Pay” letter, pressure on striking workers and apprentices to leave Tembagapura, contract workers being forced to work for 12 hours straight to meet production losses during the strike, replacing contract workers with as many as 100 strike breakers sent from Jakarta by the companies PT. Tri Parta Jakarta and PT. Komaritim, forced removals from the workplace and employees being forcibly picked up at their homes using DS-1643 and DS-1500 vehicles.

There has also been intimidation from PT Freeport Indonesia foreign workers through Deputy President Director John Hollow (a US citizen) who signed a letter stating that 200 permanent workers were to be laid off. The systematic threats of dismissals by the company management have been supported by the police, Brimob and Freeport security.

In one instance this involved a Freeport level 1 staff member “X”, who was not prepared to give their name because they were concerned for their personal and family’s security. X received a letter of temporary release from duties (RFD) dated September 24 from a superior. X was accused of spreading confidential company information in violation of company regulations. X was deemed to be indirectly involved because X provided the confidential company information (related to employee wages) that trigged the dispute between workers and management. Two days later on September 26, X was forcibly picked up at the Tembagapura employees barracks and then transported to Timika by the management at 6.10pm local time escorted by a Brimob officer, a superior who is well known to X, two security personnel and a company driver. X stayed overnight at the PT Freeport base camp near the Timika airport and the following day was then sent back to his home town.

The example above is evidence that the Freeport management is more interested in throwing money at security personnel that comprise members of the police and Brimob to “safeguard their assets” than pay decent wages to their workers who have worked for and served company for decades. In addition to demands for wage increases, the strikers are also reasonable healthcare facilities for workers.

The Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle therefore states:

1. The management must immediately increase workers wages from US$1.5 an hour to US$3 per hour.

2. The management must provide the same facilities to local workers as those given to foreign workers (healthcare services, education for workers’ children)

3. It is the worker’s right to go on strike and the management does not have the right to dismiss workers that are on strike.

4. Foreign employees working at PT Freeport Indonesia do not have the right to become involved in issues between workers and the management. This is in conflict with the legal principles contained in the 2003 Labour Law and if they continue to do so, the government must deport the foreign workers concerned.

5. The police and Brimob do not have the right to become involved in industrial affairs between the management and workers, as regulated under Article 143 of the 2003 Labour Law.

Jakarta, 28 September 2011

Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle:

The Papua Student Alliance (AMP), the Papuan Traditional Social Community Against Corruption (Kampak Papua), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi), the Papua NGO Cooperative Forum (Foker LSM Papua), the Working People’s Association (PRP), the People’s Liberation Party (PPR), the National Trade Union Preparatory Committee (KP-KSN), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian People’s Opposition Front (FORI), the Student Action Union (KAMLAKSI), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union of Struggle (SBTPI), the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (PEMBEBASAN), Praxis, the Semanggi Student Action Front (FAMSI), the Strategic State-Owned Enterprises Federation (FED BUMN Strategis), the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the West Java Federated Trade Union
for Justice (FSPK Jabar), the Central Java Indonesian Farmers Federation Union (FSPI Jateng), the Banten Primary Industries Trade Union Federation (FSBKU Banten), the South Sulawesi Nusantara Trade Union Alliance (GSBN Sulsel), the South Sulawesi Indonesian Federated Trade Union of Struggle (FSPBI Sulsel), the North Sumatra Plantation Workers Trade Union (Serbuk Sumut), Perbumi North Sumatra (Perbumi Sumut), the East Java People Based Trade Union (SBK Jatim), the Sidoarjo Independent Trade Union (SBM Sidoarjo), the Malang Independent Trade Union (SBM Malang), the Working People’s Association-Organisational Saviours Committee (KPO-PRP) and the United Indonesian Labour Movement (PPBI).

[Translated by James Balowski.]