Thu, Dec 15, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Indonesian Freeport strike ends in deal


A wage deal has been reached to end a three-month strike at a giant gold and copper mine in Indonesia owned by US company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc, the workers’ union said yesterday.

“Freeport and the workers union have agreed to a 37 percent increase, but we are still waiting for it to be made official in coming days,” union spokesperson Juli Parorrongan said. “It will be paid over two years, starting with a 24 percent increase. If all goes as planned, we will return to work on Saturday.”

About 8,000 of Freeport’s 23,000 workers in Indonesia’s Papua province have been on strike since Sept. 15, crippling production at the Grasberg mine, which holds the world’s largest gold and second-largest copper reserves.

Workers originally wanted a 20-fold increase, from a minimum of US$1.50 an hour to US$30, but their demands steadily declined.

The strike is one of a wave of industrial actions across Southeast Asia’s largest economy, where the cost of living is rising and a burgeoning middle class is demanding a greater share of the nation’s economic success.

The action at Grasberg triggered a spate of violence, with at least eight people killed in ambush attacks and a clash with police in the already restive province.

The workers claimed to be Freeport’s lowest-paid employees in the world, including those at mines in Africa and South America.

The strike has slashed production by 50 percent, prompting the company in October to declare force majeure — a legal declaration of extraordinary circumstances — enabling it to avoid liability on existing orders as it was unable to deliver shipments to some customers.

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