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CNV Internationaal film shows improvements in palm oil industry

Independent unions are the solution to injustice

“Start having constructive dialogue with your employees; give employees the right to establish independent unions. This is the best way to fight injustices! This is the only way palm oil multi-nationals will be able to gain insight into what’s really happening in their supply chains and, even more, it will include workers in finding solutions for their problematic working conditions.” This is the message Arend van Wijngaarden, Vice-President of CNV Internationaal, relayed to participants at the RSPO Conference (Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil, certification organization for sustainable palm oil) in Paris today.

CNV is showing a film at the RSPO conference (25-26 June). This film shows how the union works within the palm oil industry to create better working conditions. While the film identifies the injustices in the industry, it also shows several promising practices which are being implemented. It’s crucial to include workers more and to show companies how important constructive dialogue is in this process.

The film shows how CNV Internationaal supports its sister-union in Indonesia as they work towards creating sustainable dialogue between workers and their employers. The hope is to secure more workers’ rights so they can establish an independent union. These talks are slowly but surely creating better working conditions in the palm oil industry.

Van Wijngaarden says, “I’m glad the RSPO also sees the need to focus more on workers’ rights and that they’re creating more opportunities to address such issues. Showing our film at their European conference today is one of the ways they’re helping.”

The film also shows that there is still a lot to be done in this fight for human rights in the palm oil industry. Workers often have very low income levels, which causes them to put the rest of their family members, even young children, to work. If workers don’t resort to such practices, they are likely not to be able to meet the production goals set by their employers.

Further, workers often don’t have sufficient protection (clothing, equipment) from the chemicals they work with. Plantation workers don’t get contracts and are completely dependent on the mercy of the palm oil companies. This lack of security makes them unwilling, or even unable, to express any sort of criticism regarding their working conditions. Unions are rarely available to provide representation and there is no constructive dialogue of any kind.

Karen Bouwsma is attending the conference for CNV Internationaal, “CNV Internationaal and its local partner unions address the “P” for “People” in social responsibility policy at People and Profit. We find breaches and work towards practical, sustainable solutions. We don’t approve of the entire supply chain system of large palm oil companies, like Wilmar and plantations like Darmali Jaya Lestari.

Bouwsma says, “Of course we cannot approve that. But we want to inspire their suppliers with examples of their own good practices. We want to show them that working with local trade unions can create solutions which are profitable for both the employers and their employees.”

Publication date 25 06 2018