Oil Palm watchdog Sawit Watch on Thursday aired its rejection of a move by an Indonesian palm oil company, member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), to unilaterally change the pay system for its harvest supervisors from a time-based one to result-based.
Sarana Prima Multi Niaga (SPMN) which operates 7,714 hectares of oil palm plantation in the Central Kalimantan district of Kotawaringin Timur, according to Sawit Watch, recently changed its pay mechanism for the supervisor of harvesters from using time units to result units or tonnage of fresh fruit bunch.
“A payment based on result units or work targets will not guarantee a wage certainty. The pay received by workers will really depend on the results of their work, a payment mechanism such as this has a big potential of pushing workers to work beyond normal work hours,” said Hotler “Zidane” Pasaoran, a Sawit Watch plantation labor specialist.
“We demand that PT. SPMN continue to apply a payment mechanism based on time units as with the wish of the workers,” he added.
Dianto, the Secretary of the Indonesian Palm Oil Worker Union (SEPASI) at PT SPMN, said in the same release that workers rejected the new payment mechanism that was based on result units or tonnage.
“Under time units, our wages are certain to rise every year. Under the tonnage system, this raise is not certain and there will also be no overtime compensations. A mechanism of payment based on result units or tonnage would force us to gather as much fruits as possible,” Dianto said.
Under the time unit system, harvest supervisors would usually get paid Rp 120,000 per day while under the result unit or tonnage system, the supervisor must be able to collect at least 25 tons of fruits per day from plantation workers under him in order to make the same amount of money in a day.
“We must meet that target if we want our daily wage to be in line with the minimum district wage,” Dianto said.
The company workers have already sought a bipartite negotiation with the company management to discuss the pay mechanism but PT SPMN has refused to revert to the old payment system and will apply the new system as per April 1, 2020.
“Therefore, all supervisors have agreed to not work and we also expressed this to our harvesters, that they do not work until our demand is met by the company,” Dianto said.
Zidane said that the new policy showed that oil palm plantation companies were not yet implementing a work system and payment system that could guarantee wage certainty.
SEPASI also suspected that the change in payment mechanism was also a company strategy to conduct layoffs.
“If we reject the change in payment mechanism, then the company could of course discharge us under the pretext of indiscipline, for not accepting the change in payment mechanism. We reject this intimidation and lays offs against workers who reject this change in payment mechanism,” Dianto said.
Zidane said that PT. SPMN, which is a member of the RSPO, better accept to open a dialogue with the labor union.
“The RSPO has laid down the principles of manpower, such as that there should not be any form of forced labor, that wages and work conditions for labor meet the legal standards and that they are provided with a fair wage. The RSPO also require its member companies to recognize the rights to form union and to conduct collective bargaining. As a RSPO member, PT SPMN is under the obligation to comply with those principles,” Zidane said.