The statement below was released by a range of Asian left and workers' organisations on December 11.
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Workers at the Freeport-McMoRan Grasberg mine in West Papua are striking for a wage increase.
The strike started on September 15 and it involves nearly 12,000 workers. It was called after the negotiation between the union and the management went into deadlock.
The striking workers want to be paid US$7.50 per hour (for grade F1) to $18 per hour (for grade A5) instead of the $2.10 per hour to $3.50 per hour they are currently receiving.
Their demands are for increases of 250% to 500%, but these wage demands are still much lower than the amounts workers are paid in other Freeport-McMoRan mines such as those in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.
In negotiations the union has offered solutions, but these have been rejected by the management.
PUK SP - KEP SPSI, the workers’ union at the Grasberg mine, argues that their members’ skills are equivalent to their comrades in other Freeport mining operation areas, and their working conditions are tough and dangerous with constant cold, rain and fog to contend with.
The minerals that the workers extract are as valuable as the minerals extracted in those countries. Freeport makes huge profits from the Grasberg mine complex. It’s the world’s largest single producer of both copper and gold, and contains the world’s largest single gold reserve.
Since the walkout the company has employed scabs to replace those who are on strike. The union says that the scabs are working long hours with few breaks and that they lack the skill to do the job safely.
The company has paid the Indonesian police up to $14 million in 2010 for security purposes. On October 10, the police shot dead Petrus Amayiseba, one of the striking workers and injured ten others when the police opened fire during a scuffle. Another worker, 34 years old Leo Wandagau, died a week later in a local hospital.
We demand that the government immediately stop militarising the dispute and withdraw police and military officers from the Grasberg mine and surrounding areas.
* We support the PUK SP - KEP SPSI target of wage parity across Freeport operations in the world;
* We demand world best Occupational Health & Safety standards at Freeport;
* We demand that Freeport stop polluting the environment; and
* We support the right of workers to strike, demonstrate, picket and defend their communities and organisations.
Given the history of exploitation and environmental destruction that Freeport has caused we would support a workers’ expropriation of Freeport.
Confederation Congress of Indonesia Union Alliance (Konfederasi KASBI), Indonesia,
Australia Asia Worker Links
Reorganize Committee-Working People Association (KPO-PRP), Indonesia,
All Pakistan Federation of United Trade Unions (APFUTU), Imtiaz Labour Hall, Faizabad, GUJRAT – Pakistan,
Socialist Party (Australia),
Socialist Alliance, Australia,
Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM),
Asia Floor Wage Alliance – Southeast Asia Coordination,
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, Australia,
Pakistan Labour Federation,
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union,
National Free Trade Union - Sri Lanka.