(Reuters) - Hundreds of former workers of Freeport Indonesia clashed with security forces near the company’s mines in the eastern province of Papua on Saturday and three workers were injured, company and union officials said.
The Indonesian unit of U.S. mining giant Freeport McMoran Inc. has been embroiled in a labour dispute since May, when around 5,000 workers went on strike to protest against mass layoffs.
Following export restrictions related to a permit dispute, Freeport furloughed some 3,000 workers in Indonesia earlier this year, which prompted a strike and high levels of absenteeism.
Freeport later deemed that approximately 3,000 full-time and 1,000 contract employees who were absent had “voluntarily resigned”.
Police on Saturday fired warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd of ex-workers who were demanding their jobs back, blocking roads and setting trucks on fire.
Union official Tri Puspital said police then fired into the crowd, injuring three people. Papua’s police chief Boy Rafli Amar declined to comment.
A spokesman for the company said the protests have not had an impact on operations, although employee access to worksites was being affected.
“Some of our employee convoys have been cancelled and we will not be scheduling further convoys until the situation is conducive again. We have urged our workers to avoid this area until further notice,” said Freeport Indonesia spokesman Riza Pratama. The company is a major source of employment and livelihoods in the impoverished eastern-most province of Indonesia.
Reporting Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Wilda Asmarini. Additional reporting by Sam Wanda in TIMIKA, Indonesia Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Toby Chopra and Richard Balmforth