Palm oil is dirty business. Help workers fight back!
You may not have heard much about palm oil, but it’s in about half of the packaged food products in your pantry.
Increased palm oil production is fueling worker rights abuses – particularly in Indonesia, the world’s largest exporter of palm oil.
The Roundtable on Responsible Palm Oil (RSPO) claims to certify “sustainable” palm oil produced with respect for workers’ rights. Yet hundreds of workers took to the streets in a pounding rainstorm outside of the RSPO annual meeting Nov. 13 in Medan, Indonesia, to demand worker justice on palm oil plantations. The workers met with RSPO General Secretary Darrell Webber to deliver their demands for change. Now you, too, can send a message to Mr. Webber, letting him know you support palm oil plantation workers.
Empty Assurances, a recent report from ILRF and Indonesian partner Sawit Watch, documents many of the abuses these workers were protesting. They include forced labor, child labor, human trafficking, exploitation of temporary contract workers, and unprotected work with hazardous chemicals. One worker described to researchers how he was recruited from his home to work on a plantation on another Indonesian island: he was promised that his expenses would be covered with a good salary, but instead he found himself broke and in debt to the company store for basic needs. Another explained that he doesn’t want his children to work, but that his daily quotas are so high, and the fines for missing them so detrimental, that he must bring his children to help harvest.
Many workers who try to improve working conditions on palm oil plantations by forming unions face intimidation and harassment. Serbundo is an alliance of unions and community organizations that is trying to help workers on palm oil plantations. It led the protest outside the RSPO annual meeting and insisted that the RSPO increase worker voice in its procedures and grievance mechanisms, revoke certification from plantations with documented worker rights violations, and ensure respect for freedom of association.
Please tell the RSPO to respect worker voice and hold plantations that abuse worker rights accountable by revoking their certification.