Thousands strike at US mine in Indonesia

TIMIKA, Indonesia — About 9,000 staff at Freeport McMoRan’s huge gold and copper mine in eastern Indonesia began a month-long strike Thursday to demand better pay, as hundreds of police watched over them.

About 700 paramilitary police gathered at the mine in Papua province for the workers’ latest demonstration.

“Since this morning, dozens of buses have transported workers from the mining site down to Timika town, where thousands of protesters are gathering,” the Freeport workers’ union spokesman Virgo Solossa told AFP.

The protest followed a week-long demonstration in July which disrupted production at the mine. The workers decided to resume their strike action because of continued disagreements with management over pay.

“We hope that the company will accept our demand soon and we can go back to work. But if they fail to do so, it is not impossible that we will be on strike for more than one month,” the spokesman said.

The current lowest salary is $1.5 an hour, which workers want raised to $17, he said. The maximum pay is $3.5 but staff want this raised to $43.

“Judging the company’s big income, our demand is quite reasonable. Freeport workers in Indonesia get the lowest pay compared to other workers overseas,” he said.

The company had proposed a salary increase of 11 percent, Solossa added.

Freeport spokesman Ramdani Sirait said the company was disappointed that the union launched a strike in the middle of a series of negotiations which started on July 20.

“The management has tried to negotiate with workers with good intention…we want to reach a fair and reasonable agreement,” the company’s spokesman Ramdani Sirait said.

He said he hoped the workers would return to negotiation to end the disagreement.
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