The Indonesian Supreme Court decided that the 2017 workers strike at the Grasberg Mine run by PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) was legal. About 8,300 PTFI workers have been fighting for their rights after being fired for participating in the strike. The judges ruled that PTFI’s action to terminate the employment of the three labour representatives, Tri Puspital, Deminaus Yonasen May and Muhammad Anwar, must be declared invalid and the workers must be re-employed.
According to a press release by the Papuan Legal Aid Institute (LBH) dating 28 November 2021, PTFI filed a lawsuit against the three labour representatives to the Industrial Relations Court in Jayapura in 2021. The judges ruled that the termination of work was valid. Thereupon, the labour representatives filed an appeal against the verdict to the supreme court, which overruled the Industrial Relations Court’s verdict. The judges considered the workers strike as a legal activity protected under by Article 28 of Law No 21/ 2000 concerning Trade Unions/Labour Unions in conjunction with the provisions of Article 153 (1) g of Law No 13/2003 concerning Manpower.
LBH Papua, as the Legal Counsel for thousands of striking PTFI workers calls upon:
1. The Leaders of PTFI to immediately activate basic salaries, insurance and re-employ workers who had been fired because they participated in the strike;
2. The Governor of Papua Province to immediately order the Management of PTFI to implement the Papuan Governor’s letter No 540/14807/SET, regarding: Affirmation of PTFI, dated 19 December 2018;
3. The Chairperson of the Papuan Parliament (DPRP) to immediately fulfil his promise to form a special committee to solve the concerning the fate of thousands striking of workers;
4. The Chairperson of the Papuan People’s Assembly (MRP) to immediately fulfil his promise to solve the problem concerning the fate of thousands striking of workers.
The Grasberg mine holds the world’s largest known gold deposit and second-largest copper reserve. It is located in the Mimika Regency, Papua Province, at an altitude of 4.270 metres in the Sudirman Mountain Range. Over the past few years, PTFI has been criticised for fuelling armed conflicts in Mimika, resulting in large-scale environmental degradation and multiple human rights violations.
In February 2017, the company initiated mass lay-offs without entering into negotiation with the workers’ union, to which the company’s workers responded by going on strike. The mining company then crushed the strike through both non-violent and violent interventions, resulting in multiple violations of labour rights and civil rights.
PT FI claimed that the strikes were illegal. The company considered all workers participating in the strike as having ‘voluntarily resigned’. Freeport has continued to deny the legality of the strikes by firing the workers, persuading them to resign, or cutting-off their wages and benefits. In a statement issued on 28 August 2017, Freeport-McMoRan denied the allegations and stated that the company recognises, respects, and promotes human rights. It claimed that all actions taken by PT FI were in accordance with the Indonesian Labour Code, the applicable Collective Labour Agreement (CLA), and the 2015- 2017 Industry Guidelines (IRG).
PT FI reportedly fired around 8,300 workers participating in the strike against the furlough program. The consequences of rights violations against those workers have had a significant impact in the lives of their families. Besides the financial implications, there are negative consequences in the fields of education and health. Former employees reported that PT FI, terminated their social security contributions and passed on the names of laid-off workers to local banks, making it difficult for them to access credit.
In early September 2020, the Timika Branch Office for Chemistry and Mining of the SPKEP SPSI published a press release, according to which 72 former PT FI labourers and their close relatives passed away between 2017 and 2020 after the company conducted the mass lay-offs.