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Indonesian Human Rights Commission calls for reinstatement of Grasberg workers

2 November, 2017The National Commission on Human Rights in Indonesia has found that the sacking of thousands of workers at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Papua was a violation of human rights and is recommending the reinstatement of the workers. 

More than 4,200 workers have been fired for going on strike when PT Freeport refused to negotiate over a furlough at the world’s biggest gold mine and second biggest copper mine, owned by USA-based Freeport-McMoRan.

The Commission’s recommendation to the President of Indonesia, to which IndustriALL Global Union was copied, said:

The Commission “recommends PT Freeport Indonesia to reinstate all workers (both PT Freeport Indonesia employees, privatized and contractors/subcontractors) affected by furlough and pay all losses incurred by the policy.”

The Commission concluded that in the case of the dismissals there is a human rights violation, particularly with the right to gain prosperity.  

The Commission also conveyed “the importance of a follow-up response on the recommendation for the fulfillment of the right to welfare related to the right to life as well as the right to survive for the citizens guaranteed in Article 36 paragraph (1) and Article 9 paragraph (1) Act No. 39 of 1999 on Human Rights.”

An IndustriALL mission to Indonesia in August found that many of the sacked workers have no income and have been denied access to credit, accommodation, education and medical care. Several people are believed to have died as a result.

PT Freeport Indonesia, which employs tens of thousands of permanent and contract workers, is in protracted negotiations with the government of Indonesia over control of the Grasberg mine. The government wants a 51 per cent stake in the mine and suspended Freeport’s export licence to force the company to divest shares. The union believes the terminations are part of the company's negotiating strategy with the government, and a strategy to reduce direct employment and increase the use of precarious work.

IndustriALL affiliate, the Chemical, Energy and Mines Workers Union (CEMWU SPSI PTFI), represents workers at Grasberg. Last month it issued a notice extending the strike, which began on 1 May, until 30 November.

IndustriALL continues its programme of outreach to Freeport-McMoRan investors about the company’s rights violations and will update them about the recommendation from the National Commission of Human Rights.

Safety at the mine is also a concern; on 17 October, there was a fatal incident, with one contract worker killed and two of his colleagues injured.  

The area surrounding the mine is volatile. On 21, 22 and 23 October there were sniper shootings near the mine, wounding six police and killing one. Police allege the shootings were linked to separatist groups who believe exploitation of the mine is not benefitting local people.

IndustriALL’s general secretary, Valter Sanches, said:

“The Commission has made it clear PT Freeport Indonesia has violated human rights at the Grasberg mine. We urge the company to comply with the recommendations of the Commission and immediately reinstate the sacked workers. We also call on the President of Indonesia to ensure that PT Freeport Indonesia does so.”