The Palm Scribe

Sawit Watch: Outsourcing Strengthen Discrimination Against Women Labor

Palm oil sector watchdog Sawit Watch is airing its opposition to proposals to expand the outsourcing sector in an ongoing revision of Law Number 13 of 2003 on Manpower, saying it would not provide job certainty for labor in oil palm plantations, especially women labor.

“The expansion of the outsourcing sector, as proposed by businessmen, will only expand the vulnerability of women labor in oil palm plantation. Daily contractual women labor will never be able to become permanent workers. We see that the expansion of the outsourcing sector as a means to legitimate discrimination against women labor, to legitimate violations of the rights to permanent work for women labor,” said Hotler “Zidane” Pasaoran, a labor specialist with Sawit Watch in a press release obtained by the Palm Scribe Monday (9/9).

Besides pointing at the outsourcing sector, Sawit Watch also mentioned other review points proposed by businessmen, such as the setting of salary raise every two years, the formulation of severance compensation and arrangement linked to contract periods.

Inda Fatinaware, Executive Director of Sawit Watch, said that there was currently exploitation of women labor in the oil palm sector, in the form of precariat work relations. Precariat is a term coined from a combination of precarious and proletariat and refers to contract workers or workers in outsourcing situations.

“Women labor in oil palm plantation are in a situation without guarantee of a permanent job, the majority have the status of daily contracted laborer or lump sum workers, without protection against work incident or ailments due to work, subject to inhuman work targets, work status violations and wages below what is required in regulations,” Inda said in the same release.

Zidane said that the majority of daily contract workers in oil palm plantations were women, and most were the wife of plantation workers or living around plantations. He said that women labor were usually alloted work such as spraying, fertilizing, cleaning plantation from weeds, collecting fallen oil palm fruits and other jobs usually and ironically considered non-essentials in oil palm plantations.

“They are employed without work contracts, are not officially registered with the local manpower office. Work relations such as these have been going on for a long time, even decades, but they can be laid off anytime, without receiving any compensation,” Zidane said.

A number of palm oil executive have repeatedly stressed that it was often the case that it was the women themselves who did not want to have their status upgraded to permanent workers because they tended to opt for more flexible time, to be able to also take care of their family.

But Zidane brushed aside the notion saying that permanent work relations would not mean that women workers would have less time to care for their family. The Law on Manpower, he said, accommodated the fact that labor could not work because of family or social matters and they would still receive pay.

“The problem is whether companies comply with this regulation? It should be the companies which should provide a wider room for women workers to meet their family duties,” he said separately, in a written answer to a query made by The Palm Scribe.

He cited the example of some 1,200 daily contract workers in palm oil plantations in  Musi Rawas, South Sumatra Selatan who were actually employed by a third party. In Labuhanbatu North Sumatra Utara, hundres of women daily contract labor toiled in oil palm plantations there.

“It is they who really want a permanent work relationship with all its normative rights such as the provision of daycare for children, breastfeeding rooms, reproduction health insurance, and others,” Zidane added.

Inda said that women are the ones most put at a disadvantage by an expansion in the outsourcing sector, and this will only increase the number of precariat women labor.

“Go ahead, the government can revise the Law on Manpower, but without eliminating guarantees for work certainty, fair wages, work safety protection and social and health insurances,” she said.

Inda pointed out that palm oil had made great contributions to the state and has absorbed more than 10 million workers, therefore the government should come out with regulations which protected labors in palm oil plantations instead of just accommodating the proposals of businessmen which clearly put labor at disadvantage.

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