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Grasberg: 4,220 workers fired as strike extended for third month

22 June, 2017IndustriALL is planning a high level mission to Indonesia to intervene in this increasingly bitter dispute.

The ongoing dispute with PT Freeport Indonesia has now resulted in the sacking of 4,220 workers for taking strike action. They were dismissed when the company deemed they had “voluntarily resigned” by participating in the strike.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate at the mine, the Chemical, Energy and Mines Workers Union (CEMWU SPSI PTFI), announced a second extension of the strike, to 30 July. Workers have remained out on strike, despite attempts by the company to divide the workforce.

The union has worked hard to build support for the strike, and on 10 July will convene a press conference with all the Indonesian trade union confederations, confirming the support of the country’s labour movement for the strikers.

The union has obtained the support of the regional government in the Papua House of Representatives. The Governor of Papua has publicly called on Freeport to reinstate the strikers. The local government have tried to resolve the situation by calling conciliation meetings. Freeport has failed to respond to two meeting requests, and did not attend a meeting held on Tuesday 20 June. A third invitation will be sent.

IndustriALL is planning a high level mission to Indonesia in early August, accompanied by a solidarity delegation of affiliates from the mining and base metal sectors. The delegation will seek to meet with Indonesian government representatives, regional government, the company, unions and community groups, to find a resolution to the destructive conflict.

The mission will also focus on the related dispute at PT Smelting, a downstream operation partly owned by Freeport, where more than 300 workers have been sacked.

IndustriALL is running an ongoing campaign with LabourStart, calling on the Indonesian government to take a firm stance against Freeport’s sacking of workers for taking legitimate strike action. Indonesia has ratified core ILO conventions, and Freeport’s actions contravene Indonesian labour standards.

IndustriALL met with representatives of the Indonesian government during the International Labour Conference in Geneva in June. Speaking at the ILC, assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:

“We appeal to the government of Indonesia to intervene at Grasberg mine to prevent a social disaster in the community, resulting from the unlawful dismissal of more than four thousand workers.

“The government of Indonesia must intervene to defend fundamental workers’ rights and prevent any violence that might erupt as a result of the inhuman and intransigent stance of PT Freeport Indonesia.”

IndustriALL believes that the company is using the dispute as a negotiating tactic with the government, which has demanded a 51 per cent stake in the operation. The company is also trying to break the union and casualize the workforce. It is expected that when production increases, Freeport intends to replace its sacked workforce with contractors.