Some 10,000 strikers were ready to take up their jobs on 17 December, but security reasons prevented an orderly return to work. PTFI, a subsidiary of US-based giant Freeport-McMoRan, suspended air lifts between Tamika and the Grasberg mines after a helicopter leaving Tembagapura early on 17 December was shot at.
It was carrying 29 people, including union-represented staff workers. The wife of one worker was injured by glass and shrapnel, before the Russian pilots of the charter service, five minutes into the flight, diverted the aircraft to Timika.
A union spokesman said it would be a week before workers started returning to the world’s largest gold mine and second largest copper mine.
Today’s talks in Timika between the emboldened union and PTFI will center on infrastructure issues, such as bus transportation, improvements in transport shelters, and assuring that the company’s personnel data management system is up to date and accurate.
These issues and overall security for PTFI staff and non-staff alike in returning to their jobs will be addressed.
Mile 28: Union Blockade Stymied Production
PTFI began operating one of five slurry lines between Grasberg and Timika over the weekend. The others are expected to be operational within a week. The slurry lines were vandalized in the early stages of the strike by indigenous people bunkering small amounts of gold and copper concentrate for sale on black markets.
In the month preceding last week’s strike settlement, PTFI began repairs on pipelines using helicopter lifts of men and materials. The company will be at full production early in the new year.
That was done to avert an iron-clad blockade between Timika and Grasberg by strikers and their families that proved to be union’s most effective leverage point.
The strike, which started on 15 September, was historic since it pitted a low-wage, well-organised, determined and enlightened unionised workforce against a leading global extraction company with a wide revenue stream, most notably from its leading money-maker, the rich Grasberg open-cast and underground mines of Indonesia.
(See ICEM news release on strike terms.)