Communist Party of Australia

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Issue #1521      5 October 2011

Freeport strikers to rally after talks stall

Workers at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX) in Indonesia’s Grasberg mine rallied on September 29 after failing to agree on pay increases in government-brokered talks last week, as the strike continues, a union official said. About half of 8,000 non-staff workers at Grasberg in Papua province, who have walked out of jobs since September 15, joined the protest, said Virgo Solossa, head of organisational affairs at PT Freeport Indonesia’s labour union.

Workers in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Indonesia have gone on strike at copper, gold and zinc mines this year, seeking improved conditions and a bigger slice of record profits after metal prices more than doubled since the end of 2008. The strike at Grasberg, which has the world’s largest recoverable reserves of copper, has raised concern it may widen a global deficit and boost prices.

“We have conducted a peaceful stoppage in the 12 days of strike, but the management doesn’t appreciate that and has declared that our activity is illegal,” Solossa said in a telephone interview from Timika, the closest town to Grasberg. “We want to show that we remain solid and question the ‘no work no pay’ note from management as well as sanctions against several strikers.”

Freeport, based in Phoenix, will uphold its legal right not to pay employees on a day where workers do not report to work, Freeport Indonesia said in an internal newsletter posted on its website dated September 22. The right is stated in the 2003 labour law, Ramdani Sirait, a Jakarta-based spokesman at Freeport, said.

Freeport and the union at Grasberg ended 38 days of talks over 2011-2013 contract terms on August 26 after failing to agree on wages. Negotiations started after the workers put down tools for eight days in July. The mine is located in Papua province, 3,120 kilometres east of Jakarta.  

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