TIMIKA, Indonesia—Thousands of workers kicked off a weeklong strike at Freeport-McMoRan’s gold and copper mine in eastern Indonesia on Monday, demanding higher wages and protesting the dismissal of their union leaders.
The U.S. mining giant insisted the work stoppage at the Grasberg mine in the remote province of Papua would not affect production. Grasberg, one of the world’s largest gold and copper mines, is frequently hit by violent worker protests. It’s also the subject of complaints from environmental groups about alleged pollution.
Union official Juli Parorongan said up to 10,000 workers from the mine were expected to join the strike after labor groups and management failed to renegotiate contracts seeking wage increases from to $15 an hour from $1.80.
“The company ignored our rights for a better wages and conditions,” Mr. Parorongan said as 2,000 workers dressed in their work clothes and wearing red ribbons started gathering in front of the mine’s gates on the first day of their peaceful sit-in. “They even fired our union leaders, who were struggling for our welfare.”
Mr. Parorongan said the nearly 10-fold increase would bring the local wage in line with what Freeport workers elsewhere earn, though that could not be immediately confirmed.
Thousands of other striking workers, marching from the company’s mine area Tembagapura, were expected to join the strikers, though union officials said some roads were being blocked by police, slowing their journey.
Freeport’s spokesman in Indonesia, Ramdani Sirait, said the strike was illegal and urged workers to return to their jobs while the company continued to hold talks with union leaders to address their grievances.
“We do not anticipate any impact to production,” Mr. Sirait added in an emailed statement.
Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold holds just over 90% of the Grasberg mine, while the rest is owned by the Indonesian government.