Category Archives: Papua

Reuters: ‘Hope Fades’ At Grasberg Mine

An update on the situation at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Papua, from Reuters:

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc said on Saturday that rockfalls were hampering rescue efforts after a tunnel collapse four days ago at its giant Indonesian copper mine, with hopes fading of finding alive any of the 23 still missing.

Freeport closed the world’s second largest copper mine on Wednesday, a day after a tunnel fell in on 38 workers undergoing training. Five are known to have died. Several of the 10 rescued are still in hospital.

The Grasberg mine in West Papua is in one of the most remote regions of the Indonesian archipelago.

“We continue to carry out these (rescue) efforts non-stop, 24 hours a day as quickly as can be done safely to do everything possible to save lives, but as more time passes the possibility of there being any survivors becomes less likely,” Freeport Indonesia’s Mine General Manager, Nurhadi Sabirin, who heads the emergency response team, said in a statement.

And what has been labor’s response?  The same Reuters article had this quote from union leader Virgo Solossa: “All operational activities, including production activities, have to be stopped during the investigation process…We think that the accident has been caused by the company’s carelessness. This has to be investigated.”  Additionally, AP reports that workers continue to block a main road in an attempt to stop production at the mine:

Around 1,000 workers are still blocking a main road about two miles (three kilometers) from the accident site in solidarity with the victims, and also to seek a guarantee of safety in working underground.

Ronald Waromi, an action organizer, said they also wanted to make sure that mining activities would continue to be halted so the company would focus on rescue efforts.

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Wokers In East Java Protest For Papua

Berita Jatim reports of a demonstration outside a military command center in Mojokerto, East Java by workers from Persatuan Pergerakan Buruh Indonesia (PPBI).  The workers called for the end of violence and human rights violations in Papua.

The IndoLeft News Service provides an English translation of the article:

Scores of activists from the United Indonesian Labour Movement (PPBI) went to the 0815 Mojokerto District Military Command Headquarters in the East Java city of Mojokerto on June 21 to demand an immediate resolution to all the forms of violence and human rights violations that are taking place in West Papua.

Carrying symbols of the trade union, the activists held the action at the Mojokerto city square where they conveyed their demands including an end to all forms of violence by security forces against activists and the Papuan people and the withdrawal of non-organic troops from Papua.

Arrest and try the military and police perpetrators of violence, murder and shootings in Papua, free the Papuan people and activists that are currently in jail (Filep Karma, Buchtar Tabuni) and form an independent fact finding team to conduct a fast and effective investigation that can uncover the truth and bring perpetrators to justice.

They also called for a broad dialogue that is open, democrat and free from pressure or repression for and by the Papuan people under the supervision of national and international observers. After giving speeches union representatives handed over a list of demands to the district military command headquarters.

Action coordinator Thoha Maksum said that their aim in coming to the headquarters was to convey a letter of protest over violence by rouge TNI (Indonesian military) and police officers in Papua. “We hope that the 0815 District Military Command will assist in conveying this letter to the TNI headquarters”, he said earlier this morning.

Freeport Workers Return

Reuters reports on Freeport workers’ return to work on Tuesday:

Some 200 workers who were bussed back last week to the Grasberg mine in the highlands of Papua island have begun work, according to a mine worker who spoke to Reuters by telephone from Grasberg but declined to give his name.

Freeport transported another 300 workers to the mine on Tuesday and others would follow in the days ahead, said union spokesman Virgo Solossa.

“They are effectively back to work on January 2 after attending a three-day work preparation session,” said Solossa, who was in the town of Timika, around 100 km (60 miles) south of the mine in eastern Indonesia.

The strike ended on Dec. 14 with a deal under which Freeport agreed to a pay increase of roughly 40 percent for around 8,000 union members and to a framework for a better deal for roughly 15,000 other non-union workers and contractors.

But a resumption of work was delayed because of a dispute with contractor PT Kuala Pelabuhan Indonesia (KPI) over possible sanctions on workers who took part in the strike. Last week KPI agreed to rehire about 700 workers who went on strike with no sanctions, the union said.

Solossa said he was confident a similar dispute with other sub-contractors that emerged this week had been resolved but the union was waiting for assurances.

NYT: Discontent Among Indonesian Workers

Indonesian workers demanded higher wages during a protest in Jakarta on Nov. 29 (Enny Nuraheni/Reuters)

The New York Times has this article on the concern, particularly among foreign investors, regarding increased worker militancy in Indonesia.  The articles discusses some of the notable strikes of the past year, including miners at Freeport, KASBI workers at Carrefour, and pilots at Garuda.

“Cheap wages and outsourcing, these are the main issues in Indonesia,” said Abdul Rahman, a Carrefour employee and the secretary general of the union, known as Kasbi, which represents about 130,000 workers.

He and others have been negotiating with the company for improved contracts since a 1,000-person strike in late August, but talks have gone nowhere. The same cycle has played out repeatedly since Carrefour entered Indonesia in 1998, said Mr. Rahman, 33, who has worked at the company for 11 years.

United by discontent, Mr. Rahman and his fellow activists are far from alone. Indonesia, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, is also among the top 20 economies in the world, with growth this year of around 6 percent. On Thursday, the ratings agency Fitch upgraded the country to investment-grade status. More than 50 percent of its 240 million inhabitants have entered the middle class, according to the World Bank, which defines that as those who spend between $2 and $20 a day. Still, many of them toil for barely a living wage, offering some of the cheapest labor in Asia.

In recent years, though, this labor force has watched certain sectors grow fat on rising commodity prices and booming domestic demand, and increasingly, it is pushing for a greater share of company profits.

Strike To End At Freeport

From Reuters:

Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc and its Indonesian workers’ union expect to sign a pay deal soon, ending a 3-month strike that has crippled production at the world’s second biggest copper mine, union officials told Reuters on Tuesday.

The strike has been the highest profile stoppage among a slew of worker pay protests in Indonesia – signs of growing unrest over rising costs and a sense that the country’s economic success is not being shared by all.

The two sides have agreed to a pay rise of 37 percent over two years to end Indonesia’s longest-running industrial dispute, including a 24 percent rise in the first year, said Juli Parorrongan, spokesman of the Freeport Indonesia union.

Steelworkers Call For Freeport Probe

The United Steelworkers have called for the US Justice Department to investigate whether Freeport McMoRan has violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The Wall Street Journal explains:

The United Steelworkers sent a letter to the U.S. Justice Department requesting a foreign-bribery investigation into Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. Citing reports in the Indonesian media, the union argued that payments to police from Phoenix, Ariz.-based Freeport-McMoRan’s local subsidiary in the Indonesian province of Papua constitute bribes.

“We believe that it is reasonable to construe direct payments by PT Freeport Indonesia to police and military personnel providing security for its operation…as a bribe intended to persuade the personnel to act in defense of Freeport-McMoRan’s interests even when those interests conflict with the police and military personnel’s lawful duty to protect Indonesian people,” the letter said (pdf).

The union said those payments are bribes under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bars the bribery of foreign officials for business purposes.

A Justice Department official declined to comment.

Impact of Strike Felt By Freeport

Striking workers of the US mining company Freeport McMoran in Timika (AFP, Tjahjono Eranius)

From AFP:

US miner Freeport-McMoRan on Wednesday declared force majeure on shipments from its strike-hit Indonesian gold and copper mine so it can avoid liability on existing customer orders.  Around 8,000 of Freeport Indonesia’s 23,000 workers have been on strike for more than a month in restive Papua province, demanding drastic wage increases and better working conditions.

Freeport said the labour action and resulting drop in production at its Grasberg mine has taken a toll on its ability to make good on some promised shipments to customers.  The declaration means Freeport can avoid the usual liabilities for failing to meet its contractual obligations.

“The (lower) production has impacted our ability to fully perform our sales commitments, and as a result we were required to declare force majeure on the affected… sales agreements,” Freeport Indonesia spokesman Ramdani Sirait told AFP.