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First steps to better labour conditions in palm oil

CNV Internationaal's programme officer Jan


CNV Internationaal, as part of the Civic Engagement Alliance (CEA), led by ICCO (a non-profit organisation), focuses on the improvement of working conditions in the palm oil sector in Indonesia. CNV Internationaal collaborates with partner KSBSI and its federation Hukatan to improve the situation. Hukatan has around 35,000 members who are working in the palm oil industry in Sumatra and Kalimantan. 

Case studies in Sumatra in palm oil

In June 2017, the Dutch labour organization CNV Internationaal has released a case study report titled “Palming Off Responsibility.” The study made by SOMO (a not-for-profit knowledge centre on multinationals) describes how RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)-certified palm oil companies are structurally violating the labor rights of their workers in Bengkalis and Siak in Sumatra.

In both cases, workers are forced to work unpaid overtime in order to reach unrealistic production targets. Subsequently, these high targets have motivated workers to bring their wives and children to work, thus giving rise to child labor. Other rights violations include union busting, workers who never receive an employment contract, inadequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) provisions and inadequate medical services.  

Focus on solutions

Momentum has been built and now ICCO, CNV Internationaal, Hukatan and the Indonesian companies started a social dialogue to come to solutions and good and fair labor conditions. It will increase the attractiveness of Indonesian palm oil companies for the European market.

Companies should not depend solely on certification. This is not sufficient as has become clear from ample research. Therefore they should undertake their own supply chain due diligence to ensure that their business partners do not commit labor and human rights violations, so that they can safeguard their own compliance with the UNGPs (United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights). 


Publication date 18 09 2017