Field investigations on Indofood-owned palm oil plantations expose egregious labor rights abuses in Indonesia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
CONTACT: Emma Rae Lierley, +1.425.281.1989, Emma@ran.org
Abby McGill, +1.202.347.4100 ext. 113, firstname.lastname@example.org
Herwin Nasution, email@example.com
San Francisco, CA - A report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), OPPUK, an Indonesian labor rights advocacy organization, and International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) titled, “The Human Cost of Conflict Palm Oil: Indofood, PepsiCo’s Hidden Link to Worker Exploitation in Indonesia,” reveals the findings of field investigations and worker interviews completed on two palm oil plantations owned and operated by Indonesian food giant Indofood, a producer of PepsiCo-branded snack foods.
Child labor, exposure to highly hazardous pesticides, payment below the minimum wage, long-term reliance on temporary workers to fill core jobs, and the use of company-backed unions to deter independent labor union activity, among other findings, were all documented on the plantations which are linked to PepsiCo through its joint venture partnership with Indofood.
“Simply put, this report reveals that Indofood is violating the fundamental rights of workers on its palm oil plantations, as PepsiCo watches on. Both companies must act without delay to address the egregious worker exploitation exposed on Indofood’s plantations,” said Robin Averbeck, senior campaigner with Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
“These workers live in a world dominated by palm oil. The plantations stretch for miles in every direction, and Indofood’s subsidiary PT London Sumatra has nearly complete power over the livelihoods of its workers. Women are rarely afforded full, permanent employment and are given some of the most toxic jobs applying highly hazardous pesticides. Harvesters, one of relatively few permanent positions, struggle under a high quota system which forces them to bring their wives and children to work with them for help to earn the measly base pay––well below a living wage. Children leave school and childhood behind and work in the rows of palm oil trees to help their families make ends meet. It’s a disturbing system of abuse, where workers’ rights are rarely respected,” said Averbeck.
Indofood––one of the largest palm oil growers in the world, the biggest food company in Indonesia, and the sole maker of PepsiCo products in Indonesia––is lagging behind its peers. Indofood is now the largest private palm oil company in Indonesia that has not strengthened its policies or improved its practices to align with the new benchmark for responsible palm oil: a commitment to no deforestation, no expansion on peatlands, and no violation of worker or human rights throughout the company’s own operations as well as those of third party suppliers.
PepsiCo, also a significant laggard amongst its peers, released an updated palm oil policy in September 2015 that does not require its joint venture partner Indofood to comply with the principles of its policy. As a result of PepsiCo’s inadequate palm oil policy and implementation efforts, thousands of consumers around the world are ramping up pressure on PepsiCo and standing in solidarity with palm oil workers, demanding that the company take immediate and meaningful action.
“PepsiCo must take bold action to address the abuses in its supply chain. Any serious responsible palm oil commitment must include Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producer and the country most greatly impacted by rainforest destruction and human rights abuses caused by palm oil plantation expansion. In light of the egregious conditions on Indofood plantations detailed in the recent report, PepsiCo must do better,” said Eric Gottwald, Legal and Policy Director at International Labor Rights Forum.
“As such a major employer in the country, the Indonesian government should enact specific labor laws to protect palm oil plantation workers, who face unique and heightened risks from their geographic isolation. Specifically, urgent attention needs to be paid to those workers most at risk and least protected––women workers and child laborers––who perhaps suffer the most under the impossibly high quotas and unethically low wages,” said Herwin Nasution, Executive Director of OPPUK.
Indofood and PepsiCo were given the opportunity to respond to the key findings of this report prior to publication. Their responses can be found on page 7 of the Report.
For information on the continued consumer pressure on PepsiCo to address the impacts of its use of Conflict Palm Oil, visit ran.org/solidarity. More than 30 organizations from around the world have supported efforts to stand in solidarity with palm oil workers and demand that PepsiCo require Indofood to uphold workers’ rights and rapidly implement a truly responsible palm oil policy.
Download a media briefer on Indofood, PepsiCo and palm oil labor rights abuses, here.
Download an executive summary of the report, here.
Download the full report, here.
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit www.ran.org
The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is a human rights advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane conditions for workers worldwide. ILRF works with trade unions and community-based labor rights advocates to expose violations of workers’ rights, including child and forced labor, discrimination, and violations of workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.
OPPUK is an Indonesian labor organization founded in 2005 by student activists and workers concerned about palm oil workers’ working and living conditions in North Sumatra, Indonesia. OPPUK organizes and educates workers, conducts research and advocacy, and campaigns for the rights of palm oil workers in North Sumatra and Indonesia more broadly.