Is it true that ISPO’s Mandatory and No Exploitation Policy Has Delivered a Sense of Justice?

Is it true that ISPO’s Mandatory and No Exploitation Policy Has Delivered a Sense of Justice?

I was surprised when I got the media link shared by my colleagues, with the title “Not Sensitive to Floods, Sutarmidji Calls Palm Oil Companies Insolent”. This is certainly a lesson for oil palm plantation companies and other companies to be sensitive and responsive to the problems faced by the community as a result of the existence of natural resource extractive company concessions. We really appreciate the actions taken against oil palm plantation companies and other extractive companies who don’t care about the rights of the community, especially flood victims, while the company gets multiple benefits. In addition to severe flooding that has entered 3 weeks in several areas in West Kalimantan. The government must also hold full accountability for ecological disasters such as haze that occurred from 2012 to 2019. Because not a few communities and plantation workers and their families have become victims of forest and land fires for monoculture plantations.

Table 1. List of profits of 5 companies in the palm oil sector

Company NameNet Profit (Rp/$)


PT. Wilmar Cahaya Indonesia (CEKA)

Rp  129,56 Billion

 3rd quarter, 2021

PT. Astra agro lestari (AALI)

Rp       1,47 Trillion

3rd quarter, 2021

PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology Tbk (SMART)

Rp     26, 38 Trillion

3rd quarter, 2021

PT. Samporna agro, tbk (SGRO)

Rp       3,37 Trillion

3rd quarter, 2021

PT. Austindo Nusantara Jaya  (ANJ)

US$     26,04 Million

3rd quarter, 2021

Multiply profits certainly do not reduce the income for the company and the owner of the company. However, it is very surprising that if you decide to provide assistance to flood victims, it’s hard, even if there is assistance, the main thing is usually instant noodles.

Income of Oil Palm Plantation Workers

Oil palm plantation companies are said to be one of the ones that create jobs, we cannot deny this. In addition to creating jobs, it also increases the income of the state and company owners. Forbes data shows that the 5 richest people in Indonesia benefit from oil palm plantations and their derivatives, including Martua Sitorus Rp. 27.27 trillion, Antony Salim Rp. 76 trillion (its company is Indofood Agri Resources Ltd. Other palm oil companies under the Salim Group include PT. Perusahaan Perkebunan London Sumatra Indonesia Tbk (LSIP) and PT. Salim Ivomas Pratama Tbk (SIMP)). Followed by Ciliandra Fanggiono with a wealth of Rp 19.3 trillion, Sukanto Tanoto Rp. 20 trillion and Susilo Wonowidjojo Rp. 94 trillion.

The increase in company income, saving state financial income from the oil palm plantation sector during the Covid-19 pandemic, and increasing the income of company owners’ wealth, it seems quite “fair” with the income of workers in production, especially workers in oil palm plantations.

Wages for RSPO member companies and ISPO certification

What kind of justice do oil palm plantation workers get? Oil palm plantation workers have made an extraordinary contribution to increasing the income of the state, companies, and company owners. This cannot then be omitted or ignored. The workload is heavy, even in the flood season, oil palm plantation workers continue to produce. Plus the infrastructure in the gardens was heavily damaged. The company’s abundant income actually causes a reduction in the working days of workers which has an impact on the low income of workers.

No Exploitation

Illustration. Oil palm plantation maintenance workers who work only 4 days a month with a daily wage of around Rp. 100,000,- . Palm fruit harvesting workers experience many deductions from wages for various reasons, for example not doing fingerprint / facial recognition (the latest attendance system replaces manual absenteeism) so that they do not enter the database even though the workers are already producing. Not to mention stealth deductions, such as the case of female workers collecting loose fruit for palm oil, which is subject to income tax (PPH 21).

The condition of the infrastructure of an oil palm plantation company (a member of the RSPO) in Kubu Raya Regency

It’s already deducted the taxable fines again. Again and again inadequate health services, there are even oil palm plantation workers who are not registered by the company to BPJS Manpower and BPJS Health.

The status of workers, even though they work permanently and for years, is still considered by the company as casual daily workers. The simplest reason from the company is that we assume that the workers are casual daily workers, so that severance rights, work services, and health are not obtained by oil palm plantation workers with various fields of work. One example is the case of a worker, such as the one currently being advocated (the worker died of illness during the advocacy process), who worked for more than 5 years and in fact, there are documents that show the worker worked 21 working days for 3 months in a row. for up to 6 consecutive months, do not get their rights on the grounds that the company considers the workers to be casual daily workers. Meanwhile, in the Labor Law No. 13 of 2003, Ministry of Agriculture No. 100 of 2004 and PP 35 of 2021 in article 4 paragraph 2, article 10 paragraph 4, article 11 paragraph 3. Ignorance and non-compliance of laws and regulations show the company’s non-compliance with laws and regulations as well as their own policies, namely No Exploitation on aspects workers argued with company policies.

Cases of layoffs of workers without severance pay who are considered by companies as casual daily workers are almost evenly distributed in all oil palm plantation companies, both companies that are ISPO certified (Mandatory), RSPO members, and those with NDPE policies. How to give rights to workers who have been laid off, died, and are old, then the company provides charity funds (compassion). We haven’t talked about the fulfillment of basic human rights such as clean water that must be provided to workers, both workers living in housing provided by the company as well as workers living in villages around the concession. A healthy environment from pesticide pollution, healthy air and river water, and ditches are usually used by workers as a source of clean water.

Working Conditions of South Kalimantan Palm Oil Harvesting Workers

Oil palm plantation workers not only experience violations of their human rights while working but also experience and become direct victims of environmental damage, be it forest fires and even floods (as in the photo above) but workers continue to work, without any guarantee of optimal health and safety from the workers. company. The exploitation of oil palm plantation workers continues, with a high workload, low wages, and no certainty of status and future life. Ironically, oil palm plantation workers who come from indigenous/local communities, lose their land and other natural resources, lower wages, status as casual daily, and the profit-sharing of plasma partners is very inhumane.

Labor and Ecological Disaster

The ecological disaster that occurred on the island of Kalimantan should be a thorough evaluation by the central to regional governments, with the question of whether this approach to economic development based on the exploitation of natural resources is correct? The results of the evaluation of the Palm Oil Moratorium must be open and clearly conveyed to the public, both positive and negative. The opening of the evaluation of the moratorium is not only on administrative aspects but also on practices that have an impact on the community, workers, and the environment.

So that companies that have obtained ISPO and RSPO certifications must also be evaluated as a whole, whether they are still exploiting workers and indigenous/local communities. Buyer to ensure there is no more exploitation of palm oil plantation workers, intimidation, criminalization, and union-busting.

In responding to climate change, oil palm plantation workers have an important role, besides they directly experience ecological disasters due to the exploitation of forest land. Workers understand what is allowed and what is not, but there is no certainty of protection and guarantee of safety and life from the government for workers, when they refuse orders from company management, to evict forests, clear peatlands, etc.

Workers need to have certainty of protection, a guarantee of safety, and life that must be carried out and become a point of pressure. Why, because without oil palm plantation workers there is no state income from the palm oil plantation sector, no biodiesel, no factories to process cooking oil, butter, shampoo, etc. Therefore, stopping the exploitation of workers, and extending the palm oil moratorium is one way. However, one of the assessments in the moratorium on oil palm plantations is the condition of oil palm plantation workers.

The No Exploitation policy and stop the exploitation of forest land and natural resources must be implemented consistently, transparently, and monitored directly by the government, CSOs, buyers, and RSPO. The government and buyers must ensure the fulfillment of labor rights such as wages, where the minimum wage can meet primary needs, children’s education costs until they finish college, clothing & board needs, health, and savings, and ensure there are no more violations of labor rights.

The exploitation of humans and natural resources in pursuit of economic income under the guise of development will result in ecological disasters, such as floods that have now been felt in almost all of Kalimantan and humanitarian disasters (human oppression over humans).


Written by: Andreas

West Kalimantan, November 16, 2021

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