The Palm Scribe

Activists Call for Rapid Tests for Oil Palm Plantation Workers

oil palm farmers

Activists are calling on the government and on private companies to help provide rapid tests for oil palm plantation workers, as although they are far apart from each other at work, they live in high density settlements with little access to medical facilities and are thus still vulnerable to being infected with the Corona virus.

“We have received information that a number of oil palm plantation workers in Musi Banyuasin district in South Sumatra, in Seruyan district in Central Kalimantan and in one large private palm oil company in East Kalimantan have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. This situation should be rapidly responded to by the government and companies,” Hotler ‘Zidane’ Pasaoran, Coordinator of the Coalition of Oil Palm Labor, said.

Zidane was quoted in a statement d by the coalition that the limited medical facilities in oil palm plantations and the absence of adequate protection, made workers there vulnerable to infection. Zidane said that most oil palm plantations were in locations far from health service facilities. Workers also have difficult access to body protection equipment and also live in centralized and dense settlements.

“According to us, conditions at these dense labor settlements have the potential of rapidly spreading the virus. Therefore, to detect and at the same time prevent a further spread, we are urging the government and companies to conduct tests for oil palm workers,” he said in the statement obtained by The Palm Scribe Wednesday (29/7).

Ismet Sinoni, Head of the Organizational Department of the Federation of Indonesian Labor Unions (GSBI) said that at the very least, the government should make sure that oil palm plantation provides the means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as masks, sanitizers and disinfectant.

Also read: Buyers’ Commitment to Oil Palm Farmers in the Pandemic Era

“The government must guarantee and monitor that the rights of labor in oil palm plantations that have been temporarily closed down because there were workers found infected with COVID-19, are met. The rights of those infected workers or those who are not working because they are under quarantine, must also be assured,” Sinoni said.

Ridho from the Indonesian Union of Plantation Labor (SERBUNDO) said that plantation companies were responsible for the health and safety of their labor.

“Please proceed with the production process, but the prevention of the spread and the minimizing of risks should become the priority for companies. The work in oil palm plantations rely on manpower and therefore oil palm plantations should reduce the work hours of labor and on the other hand also provide vitamins to boost their resilience,” Ridho said.

Last month, Joko Supriyono, Chairman of the Indonesian Association of Palm Oil Producers (GAPKI) said that COVID-19 prevention protocols were also strictly applied both at the plantations and in the labor’s housing complexes.

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