Decent work in plantations

Malaysian palm oil industry seeks to strengthen responsible labour practices

ILO conducted supported workshop to assist sees Malaysian palm oil industry in addressing share best practices to combat forced labour labour and child labour.

Press release | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia | 05 October 2022
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (ILO News) - Malaysian palm oil industry leaders shared examples of responsible labour practices and discussed mechanisms to address forced labour and child labour at an ILO workshop, held in Kuala Lumpur, on 21 September.

The workshop provided a platform for industry leaders to share examples of responsible labour practices, including due diligence in labour recruitment for other estates and smallholders to learn from.

In her welcome remarks, Puan Zalina binti Rosli, Senior Principal Assistant Secretary of the International Division, Ministry of Human Resources, stated: “Malaysia’s ratification of various international human rights instruments, including the Protocol of 2014 to the Forced Labour Convention (Protocol 29), is a testament of the government’s commitment to address forced labour issues in all sectors of work, particularly in the rubber glove manufacturing sector and oil palm plantation sector”.

Dr. Surina Ismail, Group Head of Sustainability of IOI Corporation Berhad, Mr. Wan Kasim Wan Kadir, Head of Sustainability Engagement of FGV Holdings, and Puan Noor Izlin Andrina Ismail, Head of Social Performance & Advocacy of Sime Darby Plantation, all shared emerging good practices of their respective companies and provided advice on how to overcome challenges in terms of labour management. Acknowledging that the remoteness of plantation estates and palm oil mills could be a hurdle to an improved oversight of grievances and accountability, their companies have started to make use of technology that can provide solutions to these constraints, such as mobile applications for grievance processing and handling in real time.

Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, context-sensitive interventions and policy changes were among key mechanisms to address forced labour and child labour, discussed at as part of a panel discussion by Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities Undersecretary Encik Syahnaz Akhtar bin Mat Ali, National Union of Plantation Workers Selangor Branch Secretary Mr. V. Thamasegaran, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Fellow Dr. Andika Abdul Wahab.

Jodelen Mitra, the ILO’s Technical Officer for the Palm Oil Project, who moderated the panel discussion, reiterated the importance of tackling the forced labour and child labour issues through improved legislation, enforcement and prosecution, strengthened awareness raising and advocacy, and enhanced partnerships with oil palm plantation companies, government agencies, trade unions as well as civil society groups.

In addition to the major companies, Tuan Haji Mohd. Noor bin Omar, Treasurer-General of the National Association of Smallholders (NASH), shared the challenges faced by smallholders including the fact that oil palm workers are seasonal in nature. He said he looks forward to assistance and support from other stakeholders in helping NASH members meet the employment standards and prevent precarious labour.

Mr. Memed Kosasih Setia Putra, Head of Human Capital of the KPN Group in Indonesia, also shared his experience in addressing labour issues, highlighting the importance of paradigm shift on labour practices including on strengthening social dialogue to ensure healthy and productive labour relations.

“Forced labour and child labour share similar root causes, such as poverty, weak governance structures, limited opportunities for decent work, lack of access to quality education, high rates of informality, inadequate labour inspection and compliance, which may stem from companies’ lack of awareness or capacity to tackle these issues. In this regard, companies can benefit from working closely with government agencies, business membership organisations, worker representative organisations, child and forced labour experts, and civil society groups to tackle these important challenges.” Elvis Beytullayev, ILO Rural Economy Specialist, said in his closing remarks.

The ‘Assisting the Malaysian Palm Oil Industry in Addressing Forced Labour and Child Labour’ workshop, was held by the ILO’s Advancing Workers’ Rights in the Palm Oil Sector in Indonesia and Malaysia Project (Palm Oil Project), with funding support from the US Department of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

For further information please contact:

Jodelen Mitra
Technical Officer
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Advancing Workers’ Rights in Indonesia and Malaysia’s Palm Oil Sector