REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, TIMIKA -- The management of PT Freeport Indonesia has suggested that thousands of ex-employees, or popular ones self-proclaimed as strike employees (mogok kerja, moker), to take legal action through the Industrial Relations Court (PHI). PT Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama stated that the ranks were preparing a reply letter to Papua Governor Lukas Enembe, who had earlier called on the company to reinstate ex-employees and grant their rights by paying salaries to those who were on strike since May 2017.
"We are preparing a letter to the governor. In principle, the position of the company is that we encourage the ex-employee to take legal action through the Industrial Relations Court (PHI)," Pratama explained in Timika on Thursday.
Pratama, who is also the vice president of PT Freeport Indonesia in Corporate Communication, noted that the solution through the PHI channel was deemed the best one to end the long-running polemic over the problems affecting 2,300 former Freeport permanent employees.
"We think it is the best way. Our position has not changed so far," he remarked.
He stated that the Freeport management respected the letter of Papua Governor Enembe, dated December 19, 2018, which was only handed over to the ex-employees, or moker employees, in mid-February 2019. Pratama emphasized that the company had taken various steps and efforts to respond to thousands of employees' strike cases since May 2017, including consulting with the Ministry of Manpower and the SPSI Center for Chemical, Energy and Mining Unions (SP-KEP) in Jakarta.
"The various parties have agreed to the actions we have taken. This is because the length of time we give to our friends is quite long, starting from April to December 2017," he stated.
The company has also encouraged them to work again through our contractors, but most of them do not seem keen to take the opportunity. Hence, the settlement, through the PHI path, may be the best way, Pratama further elaborated. The labor conflict in PT Freeport arose after the government no longer extended the concentrate export permit in mid-January 2017.
At the same time, PT Freeport also could not send 40 percent of its concentrate production to a smelting processing plant in the Smelter Gresik company, East Java, as it was not operating at that time. In response to this condition, the PT Freeport management then took efficiency measures, one of them being by laying off several employees.
"At that time, we did not conduct termination of employment/layoffs of employees and only sent off a few employees. The company still paid salaries to the laid-off employees. Until now, there are those who still receive salaries, some have taken retirement packages, while some are temporarily in retirement," Pratama noted.
The Freeport management's decision to lay off some of the employees, also known as "furlough policies," triggered a protest reaction from the head of the SP-KEP SPSI PT Freeport Work Unit that was supported by the DPC SP KEP SPSI board of the Mimika District leader, Aser Gobay.
The SPSI management pointed out that the furlough policy applied by Freeport was outside the realm of the Indonesian labor regulations and urged the company to negotiate in advance with the union. After several meetings facilitated by the Mimika district government, both parties failed to reach an agreement, and thousands of Freeport's permanent employees and their subcontractors went on strike since May 2017 in Timika.
According to Pratama, the company considers that thousands of ex-employees, who opted for the strike, were absent or were not keen to work anymore.
"In April 2017, other groups outside the group of employees that were laid off were lost to follow-up. The company thought they would not work with us anymore," Pratama remarked.
During the strike, from May 2017 until present, the moker employees made various efforts to fight for securing their destiny, including staying put for weeks in front of the State Palace, Jakarta, to meet President Joko Widodo.