Labor and rights activists are painting a gloomy picture of workers’ conditions in oil palm plantation in this world’s top palm oil producer but an expert said that it was not the regulations and laws that were at fault, but the inability to monitor and supervise compliance effectively.
Herwin Nasution, Chairman of the Indonesia Union of Plantation Workers (SERBUNDO), speaking at an online discussion organized by Sawit Watch on Wednesday (22/7) listed a litany of problems facing the labor force in oil palm plantations.
They included low pay, long hours, excessive targets and accompanying fines for failure to meet, and bad health conditions, safety protection and welfare as well as weak rights. Sawit Watch Executive Director Inda Fatinaware also echoed him.
But Fajar Dwi Wisnu Wardani, an expert of the Executive Office of the President (KSP) said that it was not the regulations that was at fault when the rights of laborers were not met by plantation operators. He said that there was enough laws and regulations governing the obligations that companies had to provide their laborers in plantations.
“The key is in how is the monitoring and supervision,” Wardani said. Weak monitoring and supervision, he said was rather the root cause of the failure of many companies to meet their obligations to their workers.
“Besides relying on the laws and regulation which according to me are enough, we can push (improvements of laborers’ wellbeing) through other efforts,” Wardani said.
Fatinaware had earlier also cited as one of the main problems faced by laborers in oil palm plantations “there is no monitoring and evaluation of the compliance of plantation corporations.”
This, she added was further compounded by a weak system, and the low competency, capacity and quality of government manpower supervisors.
Nasution, in his presentation, also mentioned the weakness in the government’s supervision and enforcement of the rules.
“The system of manpower supervision is not running and mediators are not always at manpower offices at district level,” he said.
Nasution also said that the fact that plantations were usually located in isolated areas far from urban agglomeration, made supervision and monitoring of company’s compliance to the rules difficult.
“Some do not even have the budget to do the supervision,” he said
Fatinaware said that Sawit Watch also included the building of a monitoring and evaluation system for corporate compliance as well as building the capacity and the provision of facilities for personnel monitoring the commitment of companies, among its recommendations to the government.
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