CNV Internationaal’s Session at the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil Conference
CNV Internationaal is attending the 2022 Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RT2022) international conference in Malesia, where we join forces with our Guatemalan and Indonesian partners to bring attention to workers rights. Eva Smulders, Coordinator of CSR at CNV Internationaal says, “Palm oil is a large international industry. The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) plays a leading role when it comes to sustainability agreements in the sector. Although these agreements look good on paper, there’s still a great deal to be done to get them implemented.
Workers and the organisations working in the field must have more of a voice within the RSPO. One way to achieve this is by improving social dialogue between palm oil employers and workers. Our breakout session this week focused on this social dialogue process as well as conversations with companies and investors.”
One way to achieve this is by improving social dialogue between palm oil employers and workers. Our breakout session this week focused on this social dialogue process as well as conversations with companies and investors.”
More attention for workers rights and social dialogue
Nature and the environment are important topics in the discussion around sustainable palm oil. But what about human rights? They’re also a significant factor, yet nature and the environment are often given the most attention. But let’s consider the human rights situation.
Many women have to work without a contract. This means they have no right to basic things, such as maternity leave.
“Work on the plantations is hard. Wages don’t cover the cost of living and many women have to work without a contract. This means they have no right to basic things, such as maternity leave. In addition, workers are often unprotected and exposed to pesticides which are commonly used on many plantations.
We work with local trade unions and community organisations in the palm oil sectors in Asia and Latin America to support workers and their rights. We believe their voices need to be given a platform during this conference. Companies and investors in this sector have to become more aware of the issues and their role in taking responsibility towards making improvements in the chain.”
Breakout session with a clear call to action!
CNV Internationaal held a well-attended interactive breakout session on Wednesday. The main topic was “Improve Human and Labour Rights; Prepare for New Due Diligence and Deforestation Legislation.” We discussed the legislation which will soon come into effect and how it’s going to impact businesses. Social dialogue was also an important topic of the session.
Labour rights are violated every day and it’s virtually impossible for many workers to form or join unions
Our local partner organisations from Indonesia (Nursanna Marpuang, HUKATAN) and Guatemala (Manuel Perez Ordoñez, CONDEG) also shared. Smulders emphasised, “The day-to-day situations faced by our partner organisations are intense and very real. Labour rights are violated every day and it’s virtually impossible for many workers to form or join unions. Migrant, women, daily, and outsourced workers don’t earn a living wage.
Upcoming legislation is forcing companies to take stock and find ways to implement and adhere to new regulations. They have to start taking real steps to improve human rights in their supply chains.
Trade unions can play a significant role in this process. Social dialogue and CAOs will show where the risks are and provide documented, sustainable solutions. Unions can then monitor whether the agreements are being implemented and adhered to.
We’ve encouraged the participants of our RSPO conference session to work together to improve social dialogue in the sector. Companies buying palm oil for the production of fast moving consumer goods are also implicitly responsible for their palm oil purchasing practices. They must ensure they’re not profiting from palm oil that comes from plantations where workers are being exploited.
CNV Internationaal and our partners have acquired a great deal of knowledge and experience in regard to establishing social dialogue. We know how to go about the process in a constructive, effective manner. Our digital tools give workers a concrete way to monitor progress and then provide palm oil employers, investors, and buyers with access to the findings.
Towards a sustainable future
According to Smulders, bringing people together is the power of the RSPO conference. “Companies, investors, unions, and human rights organisations have all gathered in one place to talk to each other and attend workshops together. CNV Internationaal was there as well, continually standing up for the rights of workers.
While the RSPO is a unique cooperation, it remains imperative to make sure the agreements set down on paper are actually being carried out in practice.
Today was special. I was told that it was the first time local unions were given the stage to tell their stories. We’ve made new contacts and see new opportunities for developing our palm oil programs.
While the RSPO is a unique cooperation, it remains imperative to make sure the agreements set down on paper are actually being carried out in practice. Only then can the sector take real steps towards becoming sustainable.”
Strengthening Union Representation
Trade unions are currently under represented in the RSPO. So, CNV Internationaal took the initiative of inviting several partners from Asia and Latin America to the RSPO RT2022. To introduce them and give them a voice.
Together we’re taking steps in establishing inclusive social dialogue in the palm oil industry.
Amalia Falah Alam, CNV Internationaal's representative in Indonesia, has affirmed the value and usefulness of the exchange of experiences as shared by the unions and human rights organisations from Guatemala and Indonesia. The unions in Indonesia have more experience, which allows our Guatemalan partners to learn from them.
Further, the types of problems they both encounter can also be brought to the RSPO’s attention, and put onto their agenda. Together. Because together we’re always stronger.
CNV Internationaal and the organisations present at the conference hope this is the first step in creating a global network where palm oil trade unions will be able to share information and experiences. Such a network would allow the palm oil workers to be heard.
Paricipants from Guatemala include Monica Garzaro Scott of CNV Internationaal and Manuel Perez Ordoñez, Guatemalan Indigenous Workers Leader, National Council of Displaced Persons of Guatemala (CONDEG).
Participants from Indonesia include three trade unions from our network. These are Nursanna Marpaung van HUKATAN, Saadi Pamungkas from F SPPP SPSI, and Fahri Paturachman from SPPPP K - SARBUMUSI.
CNV Internationaal’s Amalia Falah Alam also took part in the panel discussion: Operationalising Labour Standards in the Palm Oil Sector.
Call to action and road map
Publication date 30 11 2022