TIMIKA, Indonesia (Reuters) - About 8,000 workers at Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc’s Indonesian unit kicked off a seven-day strike on Monday, a union head said, in a move that could potentially disrupt operations.
Freeport said it was not anticipating any impact on production at the mine it claims on its website contains the world’s largest single gold reserve.
Freeport’s Indonesia unit runs the Grasberg mine in the remote Papua province, where a separatist insurgency and struggle over resources has lingered for decades.
The workers have called for a re-negotiation of their working contract, demanding a wage rise from $1.5 to $3 per hour, since they said other Freeport workers around the world are paid at least $15-30 per hour, a union official said.
“We see that from eight companies Freeport owned, Indonesia is the biggest contributor in terms of revenue ... We deserve something more,” Virgo Solossa, the organisational head of Freeport Indonesia’s Labor Union, told Reuters by telephone.
“We are not going to rally, we are just going on a strike, sitting tight doing nothing,” Solossa added.
Thousands of workers marched from Timika city to Kuala Kencana, the Freeport town complex, on Monday morning, although many have yet to reach the Freeport complex since roads are being blockaded by police.
“We are not anticipating any impact to production,” Freeport’s Jakarta-based spokesman Ramdani Sirait said in an emailed statement, in response to a question on potential disruption to gold and copper output.
“The management calls all employees to keep working ... the company sees there is no legitimate justification for any form of strike, therefore it is unlawful because it is not due to failed negotiation nor the company’s unwillingness to negotiate,” Sirait said.
Freeport, which also has mines in North America, South America and the Democratic Republic of Congo, expects its copper output to fall 17 percent this year to about 1 billion pounds by weight.
Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu in JAKARTA; Editing by Neil Chatterjee