State is obliged to protect striking PT Freeport Indonesia workers

Joint Statement – September 28, 2011
PT Freeport Indonesia workers demonstrate in Jakarta (Tribune)
PT Freeport Indonesia workers demonstrate in Jakarta (Tribune)

We fully support the strike by PT Freeport Indonesia workers for better wages and conditions. The government must guarantee legal protection to the workers and protect them against intimidation and threats while they are on strike and conducting negotiations with the company in accordance with Law Number 13/2003 on Labour.

The strike by around 8,000 PT. Freeport Indonesia employees in Timika, West Papua, is to demand that the management bring their wages into line with PT Freeport Mc Moran wage standards in other countries. Freeport currently pays its workers as little as US$1.50 and hour and workers are demanding that this be increased to US$3 (25,000 rupiah) an hour. Freeport workers in other countries currently receive an hourly wage of US$15 or 128,250 rupiah per hour.

The Freeport management has refused to fulfill the workers’ demands. A tripartite meeting has been held between the government, Freeport management and workers, but the workers have still not succeeded in reaching an agreement.

Since the strike began on September 15, there have been numerous incidents of pressure and intimidation against the workers, either directly by the Freeport management or through the arrogant actions of the police and the Mobile Brigade (Brimob).

This includes the attempted shooting of PT Freeport Indonesia All Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI) chairperson Sudiro on September 11, the removal of employees’ rights through the “No Work, No Pay” letter, pressure on striking workers and apprentices to leave Tembagapura, contract workers being forced to work for 12 hours straight to meet production losses during the strike, replacing contract workers with as many as 100 strike breakers sent from Jakarta by the companies PT. Tri Parta Jakarta and PT. Komaritim, forced removals from the workplace and employees being forcibly picked up at their homes using DS-1643 and DS-1500 vehicles.

There has also been intimidation from PT Freeport Indonesia foreign workers through Deputy President Director John Hollow (a US citizen) who signed a letter stating that 200 permanent workers were to be laid off. The systematic threats of dismissals by the company management have been supported by the police, Brimob and Freeport security.

In one instance this involved a Freeport level 1 staff member “X”, who was not prepared to give their name because they were concerned for their personal and family’s security. X received a letter of temporary release from duties (RFD) dated September 24 from a superior. X was accused of spreading confidential company information in violation of company regulations. X was deemed to be indirectly involved because X provided the confidential company information (related to employee wages) that trigged the dispute between workers and management. Two days later on September 26, X was forcibly picked up at the Tembagapura employees barracks and then transported to Timika by the management at 6.10pm local time escorted by a Brimob officer, a superior who is well known to X, two security personnel and a company driver. X stayed overnight at the PT Freeport base camp near the Timika airport and the following day was then sent back to his home town.

The example above is evidence that the Freeport management is more interested in throwing money at security personnel that comprise members of the police and Brimob to “safeguard their assets” than pay decent wages to their workers who have worked for and served company for decades. In addition to demands for wage increases, the strikers are also reasonable healthcare facilities for workers.

The Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle therefore states:

1. The management must immediately increase workers wages from US$1.5 an hour to US$3 per hour.
2. The management must provide the same facilities to local workers as those given to foreign workers (healthcare services, education for workers’ children)
3. It is the worker’s right to go on strike and the management does not have the right to dismiss workers that are on strike.
4. Foreign employees working at PT Freeport Indonesia do not have the right to become involved in issues between workers and the management. This is in conflict with the legal principles contained in the 2003 Labour Law and if they continue to do so, the government must deport the foreign workers concerned.
5. The police and Brimob do not have the right to become involved in industrial affairs between the management and workers, as regulated under Article 143 of the 2003 Labour Law.

Jakarta, 28 September 2011

Coalition for the Freeport Indonesia Workers’ Struggle:

The Papua Student Alliance (AMP), the Papuan Traditional Social Community Against Corruption (Kampak Papua), the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Indonesian Association of the Families of Missing Persons (Ikohi), the Papua NGO Cooperative Forum (Foker LSM Papua), the Working People’s Association (PRP), the People’s Liberation Party (PPR), the National Trade Union Preparatory Committee (KP-KSN), the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), the Indonesian People’s Opposition Front (FORI), the Student Action Union (KAMLAKSI), the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), the Indonesian Transportation Trade Union of Struggle (SBTPI), the Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (PEMBEBASAN), Praxis, the Semanggi Student Action Front (FAMSI), the Strategic State-Owned Enterprises Federation (FED BUMN Strategis), the Indonesian Pulp and Paper Trade Union Federation (FSP2KI), the West Java Federated Trade Union for Justice (FSPK Jabar), the Central Java Indonesian Farmers Federation Union (FSPI Jateng), the Banten Primary Industries Trade Union Federation (FSBKU Banten), the South Sulawesi Nusantara Trade Union Alliance (GSBN Sulsel), the South Sulawesi Indonesian Federated Trade Union of Struggle (FSPBI Sulsel), the North Sumatra Plantation Workers Trade Union (Serbuk Sumut), Perbumi North Sumatra (Perbumi Sumut), the East Java People Based Trade Union (SBK Jatim), the Sidoarjo Independent Trade Union (SBM Sidoarjo), the Malang Independent Trade Union (SBM Malang), the Working People’s Association-Organisational Saviours Committee (KPO-PRP) and the United Indonesian Labour Movement (PPBI).

[Translated by James Balowski.]