Freeport`s underground mining operations have been totally halted since Wednesday (Sept. 14) at 10.30 pm local time, Oktavianus Hisage, one of the US copper and gold mining company`s workers, said in Timika on Thursday.
PTFI workers have decided to go on strike from September 15 to October 15, 2011 after the PTFI Labor Union (SPSI) and the firm`s management failed to reach an agreement on the Collective Work Agreement (PKB) for the 2011-2013 period.
Virgo Solossa of PTFI SPSI said up to Sept 15 evening, more than 6,000 workers had left the company in Tembagapura to Timika. And the exodus would continue until the remaining 3,000 workers had left the area, he said.
PT Freeport Indonesia currently has around 22,800 workers. It operates in the remote highlands of Indonesia`s eastern most province of Papua.
The company`s Grasberg mining complex is one of the world`s largest single producers of both copper and gold, and contains the largest recoverable reserves of copper and the largest single gold reserve in the world. It began open-pit mining of the Grasberg ore body in 1990.
Because the mining firm is considered a vital object, Papua Police Chief Inspector General Bigman Lumban Tobing has been directly supervising the security measures taken to protect PT Freeport`s important facilities during the strike.
"The security authorities are following the problem seriously," Papua Provincial Police Spokesman Senior Commissioner Wachyono said in Jayapura, Thursday (Sept 15).
Wachyono said the security measures were necessary to ensure that the strike would not affect the situation in the province.
"We still hope the SPSI leaders go back to the negotiation table because the Law on Manpower provides a chance to continue negotiations until they can agree on a Joint Work Agreement for the welfare of the PTFI workers," he said.
"We urge PTFI workers and SPSI leaders to maintain peace and security in the region. Don`t be provoked by irresponsible their parties . Don`t intimidate fellow workers, please give priority to peace and order," he said.
On Wednesday, a joint security team consisting of 114 officers of Police and Mobile Brigade, were flown from Jayapura to Timika, Mimika District, to maintain order during the strike.
In Timika, they join the existing 850 officers of the joint Police and National Defense Forces (TNI) team and 100 Mobile Brigade officers sent from Jakarta.
This is not the first strike by PTFI`s workers this year. In July 2011, thousands of irregular workers of PT Freeport Indonesia had also staged rallies for four days, forcing the gold and copper mining giant to cease production.
Earlier this week in Jakarta, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Darwin Saleh said the ongoing workers strike at PT Freeport was causing a potential loss of 19 million US dollars per day to the US gold and copper mining company in Papua.
"The 19 million US dollar potential loss is from the value of unrealized daily sales," the minister said at a press conference in his office on Friday (Sept. 16).
Minister Darwin and Thamrin Sihite flew to Papua immediately after the press conference.
In addition, the Indonesian state was also losing at an estimated rate of 6.7 million US dollars per day, he said.
Freeport produces 230,000 tons of copper concentrates daily. The concentrates contain gold and silver, apart from copper. Last year, the company produced 553.4 million kg of copper and 50,745 kg of gold.
The company contributed 1.9 billion US dollars in tax and non-tax payments to the state in 2010. It has also spent capital and routine expenses amounting to 2.1 billion US dollars.
The minister expressed optimism that the manpower and transmigration ministry would be able to help solve the problem that caused the workers strike.
"We will encourage and facilitate efforts for the solution of the problem," Minister Darwin said, adding that the government was determined to maintain the current conducive investment climate, he said.
The minister promised that he would not be siding with any party and he believed that the workers` rights and the level of their income must be maintained.
On the second day of the strike, the management of PTFI has called on its irregular employees to return to work on Friday (Sept 16).
"We call on all employees to soon go back to work so prevent further losses," PT Freeport management said in a statement in Timika.
The management said the PTFI`s worker union has started an illegal strike since Thursday (Sept 15).
"Illegal strike could give negative impacts financially on the workers and their families in particular," PT Freeport?s statement said.
No company would pay salaries to striking workers, and PTFI would not pay salaries of employees who were not working, it stated.
The company warned that it would apply "No Work, No Pay" principle.
The management said it cared for the employees and the strike would disadvantage the company, the government, the local community and the regional administration.
PTFI Spokesman Ramdani Sirait said recently that the management and SPSI had conducted negotiations since July 2011 and the company had been trying to reach a fair and proportional deal.
"The Management pf PT Freeport Indonesia is disappointed because the Labor Union has decided to go on strike which is illegal," Ramdani told ANTARA in Timika.
Ramdani earlier said the negotiation process between the management and workers` representatives would be shifted to Jakarta, as suggested by the manpower and transmigration ministry.
"We hope there will be progress toward an agreement," he said.
But PTFI SPSI Spokesman Julius Parorongan said in Timika on Friday (Sept 16) that the strike was legal.
"The strike is legal and very legal. If the management says it`s illegal, it`s just their version," Julius Parorongan said,
Before going on strike, PTFI SPSI had sent a notice letter to the Mimika manpower and transmigration office on September 5, 2011, in line with the existing manpower regulations, he said.
Given the strike`s potential financial damages to the provincial administration, acting Govenor of Papua Syamsul Arief Rivai has called on the mining company`s workers not to go on strike.
"It`s an internal problem between PT Freeport and its workers. So, I hope they can find a solution internally. Please, don`t go on strike," Syamsul Arief Rivai said.
A prolonged conflict would affect the company`s performance and bring losses not only to PT Freeport but to many other parties as well, the official said. ***3***
(T.F001/A/F001/F001) 17-09-2011 15:25:09