Indonesian workers protest after deadly blast at nickel plant

Indonesian workers protest after deadly blast at nickel plant

Indonesian workers protest after deadly blast at nickel plant

Hundreds of Indonesian workers demonstrated Wednesday against working conditions at a Chinese-funded nickel-processing company where an explosion over the weekend killed at least 18 people and wounded scores more.

The disaster happened on Sulawesi island on Saturday morning when workers were repairing a furnace at a company controlled by PT Indonesia Tsingshan Stainless Steel (ITSS) in the Morowali Industrial Park.

Sulawesi is a hub for the mineral-rich country’s nickel production, a basic metal needed in electric car batteries and stainless steel, and China’s expanding involvement in the industry has fueled anger over wages and working conditions.

Hundreds of workers were seen protesting outside the facility, according to images obtained by AFP.

Demonstrators gave a list of 23 demands to management, according to a letter sent to police by unions representing the workers.

The demands included that smelters be better maintained, health clinics be improved to deal with emergencies and Chinese workers be required to learn the Indonesian language.

“No production is worth a life!” protesters shouted through loudspeakers, video footage of the demonstration showed.

Among those killed in the blast was Muhammad Taufik, a 40-year-old welder who left behind a wife and two children.

“The family is grieving, he was the breadwinner,” Taufik’s cousin Parlin Hidayat told AFP, adding that ITSS had given the family compensation worth 600 million rupiah ($30,625) after the accident.

“They hope there will be no more incidents like this in the future, let him be the last victim.”

Thirty people are still being treated in hospital for their injuries after the blast, according to police.

Dedy Kurniawan, a spokesperson for Morowali Industrial Park, told AFP that the company had “done what they (the protesters) demanded two days ago,” without specifying which demands had been met.

“We hope this demonstration will not continue after they hear our explanation,” he said.

Tsingshan Holding Group, the world’s biggest nickel producer and China’s biggest stainless steelmaker, holds a majority stake in ITSS.

ITSS is a tenant in the industrial park, which is also majority-owned by Tsingshan along with local partner Bintang Delapan.

In January, two workers, one of whom was a Chinese national, were killed at a nickel smelting plant in the same industrial park after a riot broke out during a protest over safety conditions and pay.