Indonesia peat policy tussle - Pulp and palm and the Indonesia electoral cycle, 250,000 Riau jobs takes SPSI to the Supreme Court. Context.

14 Oct 2017: Pulp and palm and the Indonesia electoral cycle

Editor's note: Indonesia's peat regulation is being challenged by Riau pulp industry workers unions. I must say that I've always been a bit worried about implementation of peat restoration as it was never clear from the start how workers and local communities engaged with or related to affected pulp/palm/other concessions would be compensated,  relocated and given new jobs. The next Riau local elections are in June 2018 (gubernatorial, mayoral, regential)*. While Riau pulp has worries, President Jokowi was recently in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra, to promote oil palm replanting, titles for smallholders and an 8 tonnes CPO/ha yield target.  He will tour this in Sumatra and move onto Kalimantan in 2018. The next General Election for Indonesia is 2019. 
*In 2013, Greenpeace urged the candidates for Riau Governor to present a concrete vision and mission on ending deforestation.

*With special thanks to Pak SH for the news alerts too, and many industry friends in Jakarta for feedback.

Presiden Jokowi Mulai Peremajaan Kelapa Sawit di Sumsel / President Jokowi Starts Palm Oil Rejuvenation in South Sumatra,  13 October 2017 -- "In Musi Banyuasin will be rejuvenated 4,400 hectares of oil palm plantations that are old, the cost is borne by the government, the seeds are given, the seeds for corn crops are also given, what less?" said the President... Replanting of oil palm in South Sumatra was conducted for an area of 2,834 hectares for 1,308 households. "This we start in South Sumatra first, next month I will go to North Sumatra, next month to go to Jambi and then to Riau, this year we will concentrate on the island of Sumatra, next year I will push it to Borneo. We do want to focus work so easy to check, easy to control, "said Jokowi. The President is targeting the people's palm oil plantation to produce up to 8 tons / hectare / year. "This seedlings later when it is big can produce 8 tons, per hectare, CPO."; note: Smallholders in forest areas will be removed from this forest status, and given title.

Fearing worker layoffs, seven trade unions within PT RAPP seek the support of the Riau Malay Customary Institution (LAMR). They are worried about the new Indonesia peat regulation and the Minister of Environment and Forestry's (LHK) second warning letter dated October 6, 2017 to the company where they work.
  • Tribun Pekanbaru reports public unrest among workers and communities within the Industrial Timber Estate (HTI) company; with thousands of workers in HTIs and pulp paper industries in Riau Province of concern. Syahril Abubakar of LAMR said: "It is not just the fate of thousands of workers and their children and wives, so this will have a tremendous impact on the children who are now studying." 
  • The Alliance of Workers Union of Riau Complex (Asperikom) consists of seven unions in PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper RAPP) with a membership of about 18,000 workers. They are worried about the lay offs after the issuance of a second warning letter. Tribun Pekanbaru, writes that "Asperikom stated that the workers felt traumatized by the 2008 layoffs as a result of the state policy and did not want to get double casualties due to the impact of Regulation of Minister of Environment and Forestry No. 17 year 2017."

LAMR Riau: Permen LHK 17/2017 Banyak Mudharat, Jumat, 13 Oktober 2017 19:34

13 Oct 2017, 10am: Indonesia peat policy tussle - 250,000 Riau jobs takes SPSI to the Supreme Court. Context.

IPOM (an anonymous expose website) on 12 Oct 2017 wrote that two pulp units of a large palm-pulp conglomerate was "declared illegal by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia...." We can also review its source story in published on 9 October 2017. This claims: "The invalidation of both these work plans is tantamount to the APRIL company’s operations being declared illegal, until and unless a new 10-year work plan that complies with the new peat regulations is approved." Also, writes that "the Ministry’s Law Enforcement Director General Rasio “Roy” Ridho Sani conducted a ground-based inspection of one of the estates.. (uncovering) business-as-usual practices.. ignoring the new peat regulations.. (and) also witnessed in person the ongoing replanting of acacia by the APRIL company in peat domes (peat protection zones) at a time when it was still trying to buy time before submitting its peat recovery plan to the ministry... As of early October this year (Oct 3), the APRIL company has no further legal basis to carry out field operations" (source:

But there is more to this. An expert in Jakarta tells us: "The (peat) regulation for this action was challenged at the Supreme Court and won. So for now, I see this as a legal battle. The regulation was revoked 2-3 days before this license was revoked" (interview 13 Oct 2017).

Indeed, Capaklah reports on 12 October 2017 of SPSI (All Indonesian Workers Union) Riau winning in the Supreme Court to save 250,000 jobs ("MA Kabulkan Gugatan SPSI Riau Terhadap Pemen LHK Nomor 17",

  • The Supreme Court (MA) finally granted a petition for the judicial review of the Ministerial Decree of the Minister of Environment (LHK) No. 17 on Change of Candidate of LHK Number 12 Year 2015 on Industrial Timber Estate Development (HTI). 
  • The case was filed July 25, 2017 and it was decided on October 2, 2017. 
  • SPSI (All Indonesian Workers Union) Riau challenged the Ministry's policy which is considered contrary to the Law... Chairman of DPD SPSI Riau, Nursal Tanjung... confirmed ... "Yeah right, we won a lawsuit in the MA," he said. According to Nursal, in his lawsuit, the Regulation of LHK number 17 strongly contradicts the higher law, where there is no prohibition in the management of peatlands for the benefit of Indonesian society. 
  • In addition to the business community, the most affected are 250 thousand workers and laborers who work in the field of HTI. 
  • In the regulation .. peatlands must be returned as forest areas.

You know how much we like to examine wider contexts too. Other Jakarta sources tell us about heightened business tussles in Indonesia over the last two years, triggered by the push for the policy for infrastructure development. This has in turn driven bigger tax collections (for example, an Indonesia SME may be paying 1/3 more in taxes) and the tussles are on the rise. One says: "It's a jungle down here ... like Texas or Tombstone during the cowboy era." Various experts see shadow fights in relation to regulatory licensing issues, recalling Indonesia's recent rice controversy.

 Stay tuned for more.

Social and labour issues: Some parts of US Congress worry about doing TPP deal with Malaysia on labour and other concerns

30 July 2016: Some parts of US Congress worry about doing TPP deal with Malaysia on labour and other concerns

NY Times - The Opinion Pages | LETTER -- Malaysia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Pact JULY 29, 2016 -- I’ve been following your coverage of the scandal in Malaysia, in which $700 million in government funds was moved to a bank account controlled by the prime minister and billions more to the accounts of others close to him.... Our State Department has turned a blind eye to Malaysia’s complicity in human trafficking, but the Justice Department’s recent actions underscore why we shouldn’t enter into economic partnership with bad actors like Malaysia. This is one of hundreds of reasons Congress should reject the TPP. LOUISE SLAUGHTER, Rochester, The writer, a Democrat, represents New York’s 25th District in the House.

25 July 2016: Situating smallholders at the fore - need to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains, Malaysia to study request for Sri Lankan  migrant workers, Sarawak to end FFB thefts

Situating smallholders at the fore - Empowering smallholders is essential for economic development – and to protect forests  Deanna Ramsay  19 Jul 2016 --  But the fact is that now companies are making commitments to source supply that is clean, that is deforestation free. And I think that’s one of the main issues that they’re struggling with is how to build these clean sources of supply that involve smallholders. But that is going to imply for them to build some kind of agreements with these groups of smallholders that are supplying these companies. So that’s the big issue. Because the majority of smallholders are independent smallholders, like in the oil palm sector in Indonesia.....I think what is needed is business models that are able to share those costs – share the cost, share the risks and share the benefits. Because in most of the cases you have business models that then transfer the costs to the producers that are upstream in the supply chains. So they are the ones who pay for the cost. In an ideal situation, the companies also should be able – if they are targeting deforestation free in markets – they should be able if there is some reward to transfer the rewards upstream in the value chains.... So the smallholders can also benefit or receive some compensation on the costs that they are investing in improving the production systems. But that is still an open question, and we don’t know if that’s going to work in that way....

Sarawak, Malaysia - FFB thefts ‘history’ by year-end  July 19, 2016 -- KUCHING: The state government hopes to put a stop to fresh fruit bunch (FFB) thefts by the end of this year. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said although the number of such cases had dropped, it remained a problem..... “There is also a ruling by Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) that only two tonnes per hectare per month can be sent to a particular collecting centre. “However, the palm oil mills, collecting centres, palm oil owners and police must also cooperate with us.”
Uggah noted it was now tougher to sell illegal FFB due to MPOB’s ruling....

Agenda to develop Felda, nation remains as govt’s top priority, Najib says - See more at:

Malaysian Government Studying Sri Lanka, Sime Darby's Plantation Worker Requests From R. Ravichandran

Govt to study request for Lankan workers BY ZULKIFLI ABDUL RAHMAN IN COLOMBO 22 July 2016

17 July 2016: U.S. lawmakers say Malaysia trafficking ratings may be too high, RAN on exploited labour, GAR's social and environmental policy

U.S. lawmakers say Malaysia, India trafficking ratings may be too high WASHINGTON | BY PATRICIA ZENGERLE, Jul 12, 2016 -- U.S. lawmakers said on Tuesday they were concerned that Malaysia and India were rated too favorably in this year's State Department human trafficking report although the report seemed less influenced by politics than last year's. The U.S. Department of State's closely watched annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report was released on June 30. After last year's report provoked a firestorm of controversy, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees held hearings on Tuesday to review this year's findings. A low ranking is a black mark on a country's reputation and can subject a government to sanctions limiting access to aid from the United States, the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank. Last year, members of Congress and human rights groups said some countries' ratings were changed for political reasons. For example, over the objections of State Department experts, Malaysia was upgraded in 2015, despite authorities' discovering mass graves of trafficking victims and rights groups' reporting continued forced labor in its palm oil, construction and electronics industries. On Tuesday, lawmakers again questioned why Malaysia had not been downgraded. "It's hard to understand that they've made progress in 2016," Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.

Trafficking in Persons Report 2015

A Hidden Ingredient In Your Candy Bar: Exploited Labor - A new Rainforest Action Network video uncovers palm oil’s high human cost.  07/12/2016

Systemic Labor Abuses, Modern Day Slavery Exposed by Palm Oil Workers’ Stories in New Animated Video July 12, 2016

Sustainable Development Goals and the GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP) - Part 2 Lim Shu Ling | 14 Jul 2016

Leveraging finance to support solutions for smallholders - Financing sustainable landscapes - especially those associated with oil palm - is a delicate puzzle, but one with possibilities.   Deanna Ramsay 31 May 2016

11 July 2016: Malaysia levy hits migrant workers, gender equality impacted, activists roadshow and RSPO labour issues under the spotlight

Malaysia slaps levy on migrant workers - Employers used to pay the sum; Bangladesh high commission working towards exemption for Bangladeshi workers February 02, 2016 -- The new levy in the plantation and agriculture sectors has been set at RM 1,500 or equivalent to Tk 28,322, while it was only RM 410 or equivalent Tk 8,496 in the past. However, the levy for foreign domestic workers remains the same RM 410. Officials at the Bangladesh High Commission observe that the new levy will put an additional pressure on the workers.... “Each foreign worker who is staying in Malaysia and who will enter here has to pay the levy once a year. So, the registered Bangladeshis will also come under it,” Sayedul mentioned. The labour counsellor expressed the hope that the Bangladeshi workers, who would be hired after signing of the MoU, can enjoy levy free facilities....

Backwards from gender equality: Oil palm’s impact on Dayak women - Land use change is transforming women's status in East Kalimantan, research shows by Kate Evans 5 Jul 2016 -- Long Segar hadn’t changed much by 1979 when anthropologist Carol Colfer, now a Senior Associate at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), first arrived in the community to research interactions between people and forests in Kalimantan. One of the first things she noticed was the relationship between men and women — it was much more egalitarian than parts of North America at the same time....Colfer returned to Long Segar many times over the following two decades, and tracked changes in the community as logging and timber plantation companies moved in, and the Indonesian government settled tens of thousands of Javanese ‘transmigrants’ nearby.  These newcomers had very different ideas about gender...By the early 2000s, when Colfer made her last trip to the village, many of her fears hadn’t been realized. But in 2004, the tidal wave of oil palm breaking over Borneo reached Long Segar....In 2014 Elmhirst and Mia Siscawati from the University of Indonesia, together with research assistants from East Kalimantan, spent two weeks in Long Segar, conducting a study that would become part of a new book published by CIFOR: Gender and Forests....In fact, Elmhirst found that “many of the gender norms that Colfer identified in the 1980s remain remarkably resilient in the face of large-scale landscape change. The centrality of rice cultivation remains an important pillar, not only of household food security but of feminized identities within the community.” Rice has become a less reliable form of income, though, so Pe Ligit, like most other Long Segar women, now does wage work at the oil palm plantation. But the pull of tradition is still powerful. Many women do a ‘triple shift’, working for wages in the morning, and in their fields and homes in the afternoons. Often they’ll abandon wage work when there’s lots to do in the fields.... Young women, like 20-year-old Hero, have different aspirations.  She helped her parents in the rice fields when she was a girl, but then school became a priority.  Like most of her peers, she wants to be a government official or work in the office of a plantation company....There are other pressures in Long Segar too. Elmhirst’s study found that the arrival of oil palm had increased social inequalities in the community. “Oil palm seems to be incredibly transformative in ways that perhaps logging wasn’t,” she says. Though logs were removed, Dayaks could still use those forests to collect forest products and hunt animals. So although their livelihood systems were disrupted, they weren’t completely ruled out. The way oil palm has been introduced — clear cutting forests and planting over rice fields — has been different. “It kind of eats the land — people talk about it in those terms,” Elmhirst says. What benefits there are have not been equitably distributed....The gap between the better-off and worse-off in the community is widening, Elmhirst says. “It was a classic story of dispossession really, where a deal was made between certain people in the community and the plantation, and it hasn’t worked for the majority of people,” she says. “It’s been incredibly divisive.”...

Gender and Forests: Climate Change, Tenure, Value Chains and Emerging Issues -- Authors: Colfer, C.J.P.; Sijapati Basnett, B.; Elias, M.; (eds.) Topic: gender,gender relations,forestry,tropical forests   Series: The Earthscan Forest Library Publisher: Routledge, New York, USA Publication Year: 2016  ISBN:  978-1138955042

Palmed off: Women lose in West Kalimantan oil palm boom - Low wages for long, difficult and insecure work.  9 Jun 2015

Palm oil shows need for socially aware research by Kaz Janowski is editor at SciDev.Net. -- Robert Guimaraes Vásquez, a leader of the Shipibo-Conibo indigenous people of the Peruvian Amazon, who made an emotional statement calling European consumers to realise they are “drinking our blood” when they consume products derived from palm oil.   Vásquez said deforestation research is based on satellite data, but this is far removed from a real understanding of how deforestation and palm oil plantations affect people on the ground.  ... His lament was that governments currently rely on data from palm oil companies to decide which parts of a forest to give to which firms, but this data is tinged with bias....  

Activists from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru to EU tells of palm Horror June 24, 2016 -- A delegation of indigenous people from Indonesia, Liberia, Colombia and Peru did a tour of European capitals last month to give policymakers and investors first-hand testimony of what they said were escalating human rights and environmental abuses linked to the rapid spread of palm oil cultivation. The delegation, which visited the Netherlands, Germany, Brussels and London during the 10-day tour, said that members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) frequently flout the voluntary group’s requirement to respect community land rights, and are involved in human rights abuses and destructive plantation development. At a press conference in London, Tom Griffiths of UK NGO Forest Peoples Programme, which sponsored the tour, said while the RSPO is beginning to crack down on malpractice by its members, it has a long way to go before all RSPO members’ palm oil is conflict-free. “The key message of the mission is that these [palm oil] operations should be suspended until land rights are secured and proper protections are in place,” he said....

Vulnerable and exploited: 7 things we learned about migrant labour in palm oil 10 June 2016 -- Many leave dire situations to work in oil palm plantations hoping for a better future, but they are vulnerable to deception and poor working conditions

Palm Oil's Human Cost Alleged in New Report - Indonesian plantations are accused of exploitative labor conditions and other harmful practices by a coalition of nonprofit groups. By Laurel Neme PUBLISHED JUNE 8, 2016

Damning Report Reveals Palm Oil’s Human Cost - Two certified “sustainable” Indonesian plantations, both linked to PepsiCo, allegedly exploited workers and turned a blind eye to child labor.  06/09/2016

IPOP POPS - The group that was supposed to make palm oil sustainable just disappeared By Nathanael Johnson on Jun 30, 2016 -- The skyrocketing global demand for palm oil is devastating forests in Southeast Asia, and now a group that was created to stop the destruction has been cut down, too — razed by political forces that opposed the push to end deforestation. But all is not as dark as it might look.... corporate members have said it is shutting down. “Cargill supports the dissolution of IPOP,” an associate vice president of the giant U.S.-based agribusiness wrote in a letter to stakeholders, explaining that the Indonesian government had stepped in to fill the role IPOP was originally supposed to perform. The government has instituted a moratorium on new palm oil plantations, protected areas with big trees and high biodiversity, and established an agency to restore carbon-rich peatland. But the government will need industry support to bring these policies to fruition. Responsible companies should look to the successful strategy used to reduce soy and cattle deforestation in the Amazon, which involved blocking rogue companies from access to the market, said Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy....

Why are we still losing so much rainforest in Indonesia? A hypothesis By Nathanael Johnson on Feb 8, 2016 -- a particularly awful fire season torched forests across Indonesia. Forest fires, most lit to clear land, covered the region in a choking haze and produced more greenhouse gases each day than the entire U.S. economy. It may be the worst ongoing climate change crisis. In the parched summer of 2015, fires consumed 2.6 million hectares of forest and farmland in Indonesia..... The most pugilistic environmental groups claimed that the very companies that had committed to ending deforestation were secretly encouraging the burning so as to enlarge their plantations. More measured advocates said the corporations were still doing the right thing, but needed help. Then, in the middle of all this, members of the Indonesian government began saying that no-deforestation pledges must be rolled back so that small farmers could cut down forests to make a living.....Here’s my educated guess about what has happened over the last few years. 1. Background: Between 1967 and 1998, Indonesia was a dictatorship under Suharto, who maintained control over the far-flung islands in par by giving natural resources to regional power brokers in return for political and military support. That exchange of land for allegiance is the essence of feudalism — it’s a contract between local leaders and members of the central government that excludes the people. Elements of that patronage system still linger. Of course, any system that doles out land as yet-to-be-extracted wealth is terrible for the environment.....5. As old-guard power brokers and companies like Mopoli Raya begin to feel the no-deforestation commitments biting into their wealth, they run to the government to ask for help. 6. Indonesian government ministers in charge of agriculture and timber announce that the goal of “no-deforestation” is too ambitious. But the president, along with the trade and finance ministers, supports the corporate commitments. Insiders watch to see what the weather — both political and physical — will bring this year. As I said, this is my hypothesis. There are two points in particular that are controversial and worth a closer look. First, I think evidence suggests that the big companies are honoring their commitments, but some people claim that the no-deforestation commitments are worthless and the big corporations are still encouraging land clearance. Second, the data I’ve seen leads me to think that small farmers are setting fires and clearing land at the behest of rogue companies and political bosses that have maintained Suharto-era land-for-power trades, but some people say that the poor need deforestation for economic development....In an interview last year, Rolf Skar of Greenpeace told me that organization found itself in an unaccustomed role: working alongside corporations to protect forests from rural communities.....“They ran to the government and demanded the protection they’ve always gotten in the past,” said Glenn Hurowitz, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. It just sounds better to say that no-deforestation pledges are hurting poor farmers rather than saying that those pledges are hurting the intimidating characters who gained power in the days of military dictatorship. The small farmers themselves aren’t clamoring for more land clearance. Mansuetus Darto, leader of the Oil Palm Smallholders Association, told Mongabay that farmers support the corporations making no-deforestation pledges, because those companies are helping them improve yields. Small farmers don’t need more land to improve their lives, he said — they simply need to make more money, and they can best do that by growing more on the land they already have. Small farmers can triple or quadruple their yields if they have access to basic training and agricultural technology, like fertilizer. And the corporations that have made deforestation pledges are working with small farmers to provide the training and technology they want....So are small farmers to blame? The evidence suggests that they were the ones striking the matches, but they didn’t do it on their own. Farmers wouldn’t be developing more land for oil palm and pulp wood if there weren’t powerful people promising to buy those products.....It looks to me like Indonesia is at an economic crossroads. If it freezes its agricultural footprint and focuses on increasing yields, the feudal political patronage system will fall apart...

SL signs agreements with Malaysia and Israel for over 5000 job opportunities May 29, 2016 by Maheesha Mudugamuwa -- Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) entered into two employment agreements with Israel and Malaysia last week creating over 5000 job opportunities for Lankans in the two countries. The Sime Darby Plantation, one of the largest agriculture factories in Malaysia had agreed to offer 5000 job opportunities to Lankan workers and the MoU in this regard were signed by the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Agency Company (FEAC) Chairman Lakshman Abeygunaratne and Malaysia Sime Darby Plantation Deputy Chairman Najeed Wahab last Wednesday (25) at the SLBFE.  Accordingly, as the first step 500 Sri Lankans would be sent to Malaysia soon. Those 500 had been selected from over 800 applicants and all of them males would be provided free air tickets, Abeygunaratne said. Chairman Abeygunaratne said all job opportunities would be in the agriculture sector at a salary above Rs. 55,000 (USD375/RM1487).

Liberia: GVL Repudiates Erroneous Allegations of Child Labour 25 May 2016 -- press release. Monrovia — Golden Veroleum Liberia strongly rejects allegations of child labor by the company as contained in recent news report published by Daily Observer Newspaper title "Advocate Demands Justice for Children" and the New Dawn Newspaper report titled "Liberian Children Alarm Danger" published on 25 and 18 May 2016. GVL policies are clear; we don't hire children at all. GVL makes similar requirement of its subcontractor and suppliers, and works to monitor their workforces.

Sime Darby denies employment of children  May 23, 2016 Cholo Brooks Blog -- In reference to an article in The New Dawn titled “Liberian Children Alarm Danger” published on 18 May, Sime Darby Plantation (Liberia) Inc. (SDPL) denies the allegation that the company employs children in its operations. SDPL does not employ any children in Liberia or anywhere else and it respects and abides by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Liberian Law. Our workers’ union, General Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Liberia (GAAWUL) through the signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), ensures that there are no children employed with our company.

Land tenure and livelihoods: What’s the connection? New study finds that securing land rights doesn't always guarantee better livelihoods for communities in Peru, Indonesia and Uganda.  by Barbara Fraser  16 May 2016

Indigenous leaders from three continents are touring Europe begging people to boycott palm oil by Cassie Werber May 07, 2016

Liberia, 3 Others Oppose Human Rights Violation In ‘Conflict Palm Oil Trade’ 05/06/2016 tjohnson

French President Hollande's Palm Oil Tax is an Attack on Africans -- French Senate Shows Solidarity With Africans, By Rejecting Government Palm Oil Tax LAGOS, Nigeria, May 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, IMANI Center for Policy and Education, sub-Saharan Africa's second most influential think tank, and the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA), the leading Nigerian think-tank, call on the French Government to withdraw its planned palm oil tax, due to the major negative impact on African farmers and communities.

IPPA: French Government Shows Callous Disregard for Global South Time for Hollande to Support Africa and Abandon His Palm Oil Tax LAGOS, Nigeria, May 11, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Initiative for Public Policy Analysis (IPPA) – the Nigeria-based public policy think tank, issued a statement condemning the French Government's planned palm oil tax.

Palm oil in Cameroon – ‘a blessing or a curse’ to small-scale farmers? 29 April 2016 / John C. Cannon As palm oil expands in Africa, researchers say more smallholders should be brought into the fold

26 Nov 2015: Palm Oil Welfare Index by Dr James Fry of LMC International Ltd 

Some links here:


23 Nov 2015: "Free and fair labour" a focus of higher standards of RSPO Next. At RSPO RT13, disquiet on high usage of "casual labour" in Indonesia and social issues for independent smallholder note the role of two layers of FFB traders / dealers. Findings on WSJ-Felda migrant worker abuse issue unconvincing to RAN.

RT13 PRESENTATIONS Updated as at 22 November 2015 ; Of especial relevance: PREPARATORY CLUSTER 1.2 ADDRESSING SOCIAL & LABOR ISSUES

3rd update RSPO response to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by the Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015, News, 21 October 2015; In relation to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by The Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015, RSPO had asked the independent accreditation body ASI (Accreditation Services International) to undertake a compliance audit on the Certification Bodies involved, as well as an investigation audit on the FELDA units situated in the area linked to the findings in the report..... Further to the report, an integrity audit of the oil palm industry in Malaysia, aimed as a check on overall compliance to the RSPO requirements, will be carried out by ASI in November/December 2015....
  • ASI publishes first RSPO compliance assessment report Posted on 20 October 2015
  • Update: The Rainforest Action Network has issued a statement on 09  November 2015 regarding ASI’s investigation of FELDA Estates;
  • Extract from RAN 9 Nov 2015: "Specifically, the RSPO P&C fails to require evaluation of workers’ recruitment process. It’s in the recruitment of new workers where deception, a critical element of forced labor and trafficking, normally occurs. “Further, the conclusions of the report on forced labor and human trafficking seem to be out of step with the evidence contained in it. Troublingly, while the report states that ‘it found no evidence that forced or trafficked labor would be used in the FELDA estates included in the assessments,’ the audit report documents numerous findings that are internationally recognized as indicators of forced labor. According to the audit report, minimum wages were not paid, workers did not understand their terms of employment, workers’ contracts were in a language they did not understand, smallholders reported “constant debt,” and passports and identity documents were retained by the company––all of which are International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators for forced labor. Simultaneously, the auditors seemingly did not investigate two of the most critical indicators of forced labor highlighted in The Wall Street Journal article: the method of recruitment and legal work status of subcontracted workers...."

Background on migrant workers issues for Malaysia feature the Rohingya issue:
The Habibie Center, ASEAN Studies Program, ASEAN Briefs, Vol 2, Issue 6, Sept 2015, Finding a Durable Solution to Rohingya Refugee Crisis: an overview of regional and domestic constraints,

16 August 2015: Migrant farm workers a significant feature of many countries - looking at US illegal immigration indicators and debate

5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S. By Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel July 24, 2015; There were 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014. The population has remained essentially stable for five years, and currently makes up 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population....Six states alone account for 60% of unauthorized immigrants — California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois...Unauthorized immigrants make up 5.1% of the U.S. labor force. In the U.S. labor force, there were 8.1 million unauthorized immigrants either working or looking for work in 2012. Among the states, Nevada (10%), California (9%), Texas (9%) and New Jersey (8%) had the highest shares of unauthorized immigrants in their labor forces....About 7% of K-12 students had at least one unauthorized immigrant parent in 2012...

Trump Says Undocumented Immigrants ‘Have to Go’  Aug 16, 2015 8:26 AM WST; Trump has made fighting illegal immigration a cornerstone of his run for the White House. Announcing his candidacy in June, he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and said they bring drugs and crime to the U.S., earning rebukes from fellow Republicans and companies including Macy’s Inc. and Comcast Corp.’s NBC Universal unit. While those who entered the country illegally must be made to leave, Trump said, “we will expedite it so people can come back in. The good people can come back.” Trump has called for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and said he’d force Mexico to pay for it, without explaining how. A spokesman for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Aug. 13 that Trump’s suggestion showed “enormous ignorance for what Mexico represents.” There are about 11.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., slightly more than half of them from Mexico, and they account for 5.1 percent of the U.S. labor force  according to the Pew Research Center....

11 August 2015: RSPO starts prelim investigation on Malaysia plantations in wake of Wall Street Journal 26 July report on alleged worker issues at Felda/FGV - link to Thai-Malaysia jungle transit illegal camp system

Editor's note, 16 August 2015: At a talk at Universiti Malaya on 14 August 2015, the figure of 8% of Malaysia population being migrant workers was cited (bigger than the 7% that is ethnic Indian in the country). This suggests that it might be even larger as percentage of Malaysia labour force (will check this out).

In relation to the report titled “Palm-Oil Migrant Workers Tell of Abuses on Malaysian Plantations”, published by The Wall Street Journal on 26th July 2015. The RSPO Complaints Panel have met on Wednesday 29th July and deliberated on the Wall Street Journal article’s findings....the RSPO Secretariat to conduct an independent assessment of RSPO Certification Bodies competency in identifying non-compliances related to worker and human rights issues. This should not be confined to Felda but  should consider  and report comprehensively to the RSPO on the extent of these issues as they affect all RSPO certified members, initially within Malaysia...

Background on Malaysia labour issues, including May find of jungle/death camps:

Editor's note on background - TPP: On the importance of US-led TPP talks (geopolitical concerns widely cited as being behind Malaysia's human trafficking ranking upgrade) but how it was recently by traditional trade concerns:

14 July 2015: US Upgrades Malaysia in Annual Human Trafficking Report - Jkt Globe

US Upgrades Malaysia in Annual Human Trafficking Report By Jason Szep, Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick on 08:43 am Jul 09, 2015; Washington. The United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers, US sources said on Wednesday, a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious US-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries. The upgrade to so-called “Tier 2 Watch List” status removes a potential barrier to President Barack Obama’s signature global trade deal. A provision in a related trade bill passed by Congress last month barred from fast-tracked trade deals Malaysia and other countries that earn the worst US human trafficking ranking in the eyes of the US State Department. The upgrade follows international scrutiny and outcry over Malaysian efforts to combat human trafficking after the discovery this year of scores of graves in people-smuggling camps near its northern border with Thailand. The State Department last year downgraded Malaysia in its annual “Trafficking in Persons” report to Tier 3, alongside North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe, citing “limited efforts to improve its flawed victim protection regime” and other problems. “I would be stunned if they are upgraded. They have done very little to improve the protection from abuse that migrant workers face,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division. ....... “This would seem to be some sort of political reward from the United States and I would urge the US Congress to look long and hard at who was making the decisions on such an upgrade.”... Malaysia has an estimated 2 million illegal migrant laborers, many of whom work in conditions of forced labor under employers and recruitment companies in sectors ranging from electronics to palm oil to domestic service. Last year’s report said many migrant workers are exploited and subjected to practices associated with forced labor. Many foreign women recruited for ostensibly legal work in Malaysian restaurants, hotels, and beauty salons are subsequently coerced into prostitution, the report said. An administration official told Reuters in June that the White House had been working closely with the Malaysian government and stakeholders to fight the problem. Among the 12 TPP countries, Brunei has also come under attack by human-rights groups for adopting Islamic criminal law, which includes punishing offenses such as sodomy and adultery with death, including by stoning. Vietnam’s Communist government has been criticized for jailing dissidents.... Reuters;

Background - Malaysia palm oil's labour needs; Indonesians stay home - Reuters, points to shift to other workers including from Bangladesh via G2G arrangement

Labour crunch hurts Malaysian palm oil growers as Indonesians stay home; Reuters, April 28, 2014, 9:42 am; "...the number of Indonesians willing to leave their homes and families for the gruelling work is dwindling due to higher wages at home and rapid urbanisation in Southeast Asia's biggest economy. Indonesian applicants for jobs in Malaysia's palm oil sector plunged to 38,000 in 2013 from more than 120,000 in each of the previous two years, according to data from the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur.... Industry officials and analysts estimate that planters lose up to 5-10 percent of their fruit each year due to labour shortages, cutting Malaysia's total export revenues by about 2.5 billion ringgit ($766 million) annually.... Of the 550,000 Indonesian plantation workers currently in Malaysia, about 95 percent are in the oil palm industry, embassy data showed. About 80 percent of Malaysia's palm oil workforce are Indonesians, with Indians accounting for most of the rest.... A plantation worker can earn an average of about 900 ringgit ($280) per month in Malaysia, up to about 2,000 ringgit, compared to an average of about 700 ringgit in Indonesia. But a foreign worker in Malaysia may also have to pay more in taxes and for utilities...."

Rubber news (update 1): Rubber tappers suffer on price fall, 50:50 split on volume at RM1.90 per kg; Sustainable Malaysia rubber (using German scientific methods) for new condom maker, GM rubber trees for proteins for pharma use, rubber glove sector outlook

22 February 2015: Rubber tappers suffer on price fall, 50:50 split on volume at RM1.90 per kg
As rubber prices fall, a dour Chinese New Year for some BY JAMILAH KAMARUDIN and WONG YU HAN Published: 19 February 2015 10:00 AM On earnings of RM75 a day, how did Lan Siew and his wife prepare for Chinese New Year? They did not. It is unlikely the rubber tapper from Jelebu, in Negri Sembilan, and his family will have meat for their celebrations, as they try to stretch every ringgit following the decline in commodity prices. In his 50s, Lan Siew told The Malaysian Insider on a recent visit to Simpang Pertang in Jelebu, that he had been tapping rubber for more than 10 years but is now hit hard by the  massive drop in the global price of rubber to below RM2 per kg.
“With the help of my wife, we share a daily income of RM150 that is split between us and the plantation owners. This means we get only RM75, each of us having earned RM37 for the day," he said. The income he earns from tapping rubber is based on the current price of RM1.90 per kg.
Lan Siew and his wife wake up at 5am daily, if it does not rain, and work until 10am tapping rubber in a plantation owned by his boss, who stays in a house that is just 300 metres from their own....

11 February 2015: Sustainable Malaysia rubber (using German scientific methods) for new condom maker, GM rubber trees for proteins for pharma use, rubber glove sector outlook

The rubber in your rubbers: the condom company making sexy time sustainable by Leah Borromeo, Wednesday 11 February 2015 07.20 GMT; You should be able to buy a condom that doesn’t require chopping down native jungles, or paying its workers less than the living wage to produce it... “.... we worked together with a university in Germany [who are] experts on sustainable rubber production. We’ll go to Malaysia with German scientists and go through our plantations. Then we’ll test the soil and stay over there analysing stuff and make things better. This includes making sure the minimum wage is paid to workers and knowing what’s in the condoms.... Right now, we’re 10% sustainable. Our goal is to have an 80-90% sustainable product in five years...."

GM rubber trees like jumping with no safety net By SM Mohamed Idris 3:35PM Feb 11, 2015
Late last year, the Rubber Research Institute of Malaysia (RRIM) submitted an application seeking approval for conducting a ‘confined’ field trial of GM rubber trees in Penawar, Kota Tinggi, Johor....... The application was submitted to the Biosafety Department, Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, which regulates genetically modified organisms in Malaysia, under the Biosafety Act 2007. The Genetic Modification Advisory Committee is assessing the application.... The trees, known scientifically as Hevea brasiliensis, will be genetically modified to become ‘living factories’ producing specific proteins for pharmaceutical use. The purpose of the proposed field trial is to evaluate the expression of transgenes in the leaf and latex of the GM rubber trees at different stages of growth, under field conditions....

Rubber Glove Manufacturers Expect Better Earnings; KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 11 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) expects better earnings as long as crude oil prices remain low, an industry expert said today.... "Latex is the main raw material for rubber gloves and nitrile gloves are made from crude oil by-product," said Supermax Corp Bhd executive chairman/group managing director, Datuk Seri Stanley Thai Kim Sim.... "If oil prices continue to drop to US$40 from the current US$50 per barrel, it will allow rubber gloves to be competitively priced," he said during a question-and-answer session here today....  He said lower crude oil prices would also translate into lower logistics and transportation costs....  "In tandem with this, the rubber glove industry is projected to grow positively this year, at annual growth of eight to 10 per cent," he said....  Globally, Malaysia remained as the largest supplier of rubber gloves with an estimated global market share of 62 per cent and was projected to grow to 65 per cent in 2020, he said...

RSPO RT12: On social and labour issues

We did not attend at these sessions yesterday but thanks to a reader for highlighting key issues:
a) A new Labour Working Group is being set up. This is expected to work on ultimately getting company-level worker collective bargaining in place.
b) In social assessments a new approach will come about. We think this will come to inform Compensation Liability on social issues. Currently only monetary and non monetary values and methods are set for environmental concerns.
We'll update as we hear and learn more. Likely these will be hot implementation topics to come as they get fleshed out. As ever, the devil is in the administration details.

Malaysia palm oil looks to Bangladesh for workers

From Khor Reports's Palm Oil Newsletter #6 Jan/Feb 2014

Seeking workers

Bangladesh migrant workers are now available to key Malaysia sectors (including plantations) on a government-to-government or G2G arrangement basis. The employment of Bangladesh workers in Malaysian plantations is not new. It is thought that the very first batch was recruited in the early 1990s by IOI Corp. Application submission have been made by many companies. The G2G method bypasses the current private broker network for migrant workers, hopefully eliminating the so-called unfair broker fees paid by the migrant workers (a worry to anti-“forced labour” campaigners).

However, hirers note that the G2G method isn't exactly a cheap process. Bangladesh is a possible diversification from the Indonesia worker base, which Malaysia has become startlingly reliant upon.
Plantations have put in the numbers sought; for now the larger ones seem to apply for 300-500 workers. Some have got the first 40-50 or so workers approved, and early submitters may have some 300 approved each. Questions include: (i) whether the levy goes to the Ministry of Primary Industries and Commodities (ii) whether the G2G arrangement can be extended to Sabah (now only for the Peninsula), (iii) how to accelerate and streamline the approval process, including allowing two or more simultaneous applications (interviews with 6 companies, Dec 2013).

Look out for Khor Reports' Palm Oil Newsletter #6, Jan/Feb 2014! This article is a sneak preview article from this issue (delayed in publication process)