Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Strike brings work at KPC to a halt

JAKARTA (JP): A strike by around 150 workers of coal mining company PT Kaltim Prima Coal (KPC) has forced the company to halt its mining operations in East Kalimantan, a senior government official said on Thursday.

Director general of general mining Surna Tjahja Djadjadiningrat said the workers had been on strike since June 14, and were causing KPC daily losses of Rp 2 billion (US$232,558).

He said the workers demanded a salary increase of 15 percent and that their suspended allowances be revived.

"We're a democratic nation now, so it's their right to go on strike," Surna said at a news conference.

He said KPC was forced to stop its mining operations when the workers blocked the roads leading to the company's coal processing site and its fuel station on June 15. They also occupied the company's headquarters, he added.

He said that if the strike continued, KPC's coal buyers might claim compensation for the disruption in coal supply, "They're already running out of stock." he added.

Surna said that negotiations between the company and KPC's unit of Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI), which organized the strike, were still under way.

"The strike is an affair between KPC and its employees," he said, adding that the Ministry of Mines and Energy would not interfere.

"Furthermore, the Ministry of Manpower is currently dealing with this matter," he said.

Surna said that the ministry's Regional Committee for the Settlement of Labor Disputes (P4D) had ruled that the strike violates Law No. 22/1957 on strikes, which requires workers to notify the body before staging a strike.

However, Surna said he had told KPC to listen to the workers' aspirations as long as their demands were reasonable.

"However, if workers force their will on the company through violence, KPC also has the right to ask the government for assistance with security," he explained.

KPC is the second mining company this year to cease operations following the closure of access roads by protesters.

Gold mining company PT Kelian Equatorial Mining (KEM) stopped mining operations on April 18 and is currently negotiating to end a land dispute with residents near its gold mine, also in East Kalimantan.

The company has since reported a potential loss of over 700 kilograms or 200,000 troy ounces of gold.

KEM and KPC are both subsidiaries of Australian mine giant Rio Tinto. (bkm)