Freeport is being accused of denying health care for striking workers. (Reuters: Beawiharta Beawiharta, file)
The fight between West Papuan workers and mining giant Freeport-McMoRan has intensified with the US-owned company accused of denying health care for striking workers and education for their children.
- Workers have been on strike for over four months
- The unions say the workers were sacked for taking part in legal strike action
- Australia’s CFMEu says “a very tragic set of circumstances… occurring as a result of this labour dispute”
A global trade union is in Jakarta to lobby the Indonesian Government to help solve the ongoing dispute between Freeport and an estimated 4,000 workers from the Grasberg mine in West Papua.
The unions say the workers have been sacked for taking part in legal strike action and the company is now withholding basic rights.
Thousands of workers went on strike after their conditions were reduced as Freeport battled with the Indonesian Government over a new mining permit.
Freeport said the workers were deemed to have resigned as they breached their contracts at the world’s second largest copper mine.
Local MP Benny Wenda says: “Indonesia and Freeport must respect the will of the people of West Papua.”
Andrew Vickers from Australia’s CFMEU said education for the children of the workers, and healthcare entitlements, among other things, had been withdrawn.
“We have seen cases of people being discharged from hospital as a consequence of that lack of coverage and tragically we have been told that 10 people have died who had been discharged from hospitals because of this lack of healthcare coverage,” Mr Vickers, who is in Jakarta to lobby for the workers, told the ABC.
“We also understand that with no guaranteed income, banks are foreclosing on mortgages so it’s a very tragic set of circumstances occurring in West Papua as a consequence of this labour dispute.”
Mr Vickers said it was an “appalling” violation of human rights and the workers were legally striking.
“In the case of PT Freeport, in West Papua in the vicinity of the Grasberg mine, the company just has so much power and so much control,” Adam Lee from the IndustriALL Global Union, who has also travelled to Jakarta, said.
“And they’ve actually been able to influence the schools so the children of the strikers are not able to get an education.”
The unions have demanded access to the mine site and surrounding communities in the non-accessible area of West Papua.
“We’d love to get up there to Grasberg to where the communities are, where these miners live and to dig deeper and get even better and clearer information about all the impacts of what the company is doing,” Mr Lee said.
“Unfortunately, the company isn’t giving permission for the unions or the media to go up there.”
Freeport spokeswoman Riza Pratama told the ABC the workers were considered to have resigned and the company was not obliged to continue paying them benefits, including providing schooling for their children.