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Indonesia: Safety shoes and paid time off

Unions on palm oil plantations gain new members thanks to young leader

Up until two years ago, the Hukatan palm oil trade union had very few members in Muara Bungo in Sumatra. No one dared to join the independent union due to threats and intimidation. Their membership fell dramatically from 200 to 37 members in a short period of time. A new young leader, Budi, has changed this.

A new leader is elected

Hukatan organised a meeting in Muara at the end of 2020 to oppose Omnibus legislation. Budi, who was 27 at the time, attended this meeting and became inspired to be more active in his union. One of the first things he did was lodge a complaint against the management of the Jamika Raya plantation. Not long after this, he was elected as Jamika Raya’s union leader.

Young union leader, Budi, is bringing about much needed changes on palm oil plantations.

Paid time off and safety shoes


After being elected, Budi began to follow training programs set up by Hukatan on social dialogue and negotiating. He also took leadership development courses with CNV Internationaal. He then used his new skills to negotiate for paid time off for workers with temporary contracts. And he was successful! Now these workers are entitled to paid time off for national holidays and 12 vacation days a year. Moreover, Budi made sure that every employee received safety shoes from their employer.

Day workers and a new CBA

Budi is currently working on getting better wages and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement for day workers. “The current CBA was negotiated at a central level, where ‘yellow unions’ were involved.” Yellow unions are unions set up by the government or the employer, which means they don’t operate with independence. “If we can establish CBAs at the plantation level, we’ll have more power to influence our working conditions.” Hukatan in Muara Bongo currently has 700 members, thanks to Budi!


Publication date 23 05 2023