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Strengthening relations between labour unions and oil palm plantations


To address social issues in Indonesian oil palm plantations related to contract labour, gender, migration, and occupational health & safety, a workshop on “Strengthening Relations of Labour Union and Palm Oil Plantation” was recently held recently in Medan, Indonesia.

These issues are at the heart of what labour unions are fighting for, in addition to the environmental problems related to land use changes for establishing new palm oil plantations.

The aim of the workshop, co-organised by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and other organisations, was to understand and create a common stance on issues pertaining to fair labour relations in oil palm plantations. The workshop also aimed to kickstart an agreement among stakeholders on freedom of association in Indonesian palm oil plantations.

During the group discussions, most participants from different institutions agreed that these issues could be amicably solved, but unfortunately no open discussion space was available for key actors in the palm oil industry to solve the problems and challenges.

Facilitated by Surya Tjandra from Atmajaya University in Jakarta, the 2-day workshop consisted of panel and group discussions, where participants were able to discuss problems and challenges in plantation practices endured by labourers, employers and the government.

The workshop saw a large number of attendees, with 73 representatives from labour unions, growers, government agencies, non-profit organisations, academics and media.

The panel discussions concluded with the recommendation that multi-stakeholder meetings should be held continually to discuss industrial relations in the palm oil industry, and agreed to act upon the follow-up actions.

The workshop was jointly organised by Organisasi Penguatan dan Pengembangan Usaha-usaha Kerakyatan (OPPUK), Oxfam Indonesia, FNV Mondiaal, Serikat Buruh Perkebunan Indonesia (SERBUNDO) and the RSPO.