TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Union has urged the government to intervene in an industrial dispute between the workers and the mining company following the dismissal of 840 employees on May 15. “The move was out of control. Freeport cannot treat employees as they pleased,” Freeport Workers’ Union secretary-general Tri Puspita said yesterday.
Tri suspects that massive layoffs were the consequences of the strike held since May 1. Some 1,700 workers comprising of direct employees and contractors’ have agreed to a month-long strike. The number is equal to 5.3 percent of Freeport’s total employee of 32,000.
The workers’ union had protested protesting against unilateral layoffs, intimidation of the union’s executives and expects rehiring or relocation of those who have been laid off. The employees also had demanded a bipartite negotiation for a collective bargaining agreement.
Tri said that workers have held talks with the management on several occasions. However, Freeport management had ignored the workers’ demands. “Bipartite negotiations have failed. We urge the government to act,” Tri said. The mining company spokesman Riza Pratama did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The workers’ union reports that massive strikes have affected the company’s operations. Freeport’s raw mineral production dropped to only 60 percent of capacity since May 1 despite the fact that it has gradually increased its output following the granting of a permit to export copper concentrates on April 21. The permit allows the company a quota of 1.13 million tons of concentrates until February 2018.
Freeport’s unilateral layoff policy was not without precedent. Early last year, Smelting Gresik, which is partially owned by Freeport, laid-off 309 out of its 500 workers. The workers’ union held a massive protest on January, crippling Freeport’s concentrate processing in the smelting facility.
Manpower and Transmigration Minister spokesman Sahat Sinurat said that he has received reports of the lay-off from Mimika administration, who had tried to prevent further layoffs. Sahat said that the ministry will seek settlement of Freeport workers’ demands. He, however, the government would not hold tripartite negotiations.