Advancing Workers’ Rights in Indonesia and Malaysia’s Palm Oil Sector

The overall objective of the project is to ensure that Indonesian unions in the the palm oil supply chain are better equipped to effectively represent and advocate their members, promoting their access to fundamental workers’ rights, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining and contributing to sound industrial relations.

Project Synopsis

The project’s objective is to ensure that Indonesian unions in the palm oil supply chain effectively advocate for their members’ access to fundamental workers’ rights, in particular freedom of association and collective bargaining. This initiative builds on the ongoing ILO work in Indonesia’s palm oil sector and aims to help to improve workers’ access to labour rights (and better-quality jobs), contributing to improved compliance, through strengthened capacity of enterprises to implement core labour standards and national labour laws, and to expanded rule of law at both national and local levels. It will do so by inter alia promoting social dialogue and strengthening the capacity of unions to effectively engage in it with employers and government and advocate for their members; supporting the strengthening and enforcement of national legislation on labour issues and collecting and disseminating knowledge on employment and labour issues in the palm oil supply chain.

The proposed project will therefore help to improve workers’ access to labour rights – and, correspondingly, to better-quality jobs, contributing to improved compliance, through strengthened capacity of enterprises to implement core international labour standards and national labour laws, and to expanded rule of law at both national and local levels. It will do so by inter alia facilitating social dialogue at the national and provincial/local levels; strengthening the capacity of labour unions to effectively engage in dialogue with the employers and government and advocate for their members; supporting the strengthening and enforcement of national legislation on labour issues and collecting and disseminating knowledge on employment and labour issues in the palm oil supply chain. In addition to plantations, the project will be targeting crude palm oil (CPO) factories, oleo chemical factories, as well as selected food and beverage industry actors which use palm oil as one of the main ingredients.

The project will build on the ongoing Dutch-funded ILO initiative on the promotion of decent work in the palm oil sector, which covers the period of March 2017-June 2019. This ongoing project follows a two-pronged strategy, which distinguishes between the “institutional development” component and the “direct support” component. The former aims at advancing the functioning of the rural labour market by strengthening the capacity of government and all relevant stakeholders to address decent work deficits facing the rural economy. The latter focuses on the implementation of integrated measures to promote productive employment at the enterprise/plantation level. It includes targeted action to tackle specific problems faced by enterprises/plantations, as well as smallholders engaged in the palm oil sector, with particular attention being paid to youth and women. The proposed project will follow the same two-pronged strategy, which would combine upstream and downstream level work. This approach will help ensure long-term sustainability of the interventions, while enabling the project to demonstrate concrete achievements on the ground. While the national-level activities will be implemented in Jakarta, activities at the provincial and local level are now expanded and will be implemented not only in Sumatra (North and South) and West Kalimantan, but also in Aceh, Riau and the other four provinces in Kalimantan (North, East, and Central Kalimantan Province). It will also introduce new activities to address recent challenges that include the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and new labour regulations while still contributing to the overall objective of the ongoing project.

Project Strategy

The proposed project results will be achieved through the activities described under the respective outcomes and outputs, as follows:

Outcome 1: In-depth knowledge is generated about opportunities and challenges for the promotion of freedom of association and collective bargaining and effective social dialogue in the sector

Outcome 2: National-level coordination and engagement among trade unions in the palm oil supply chain and their capacity to advocate for their members is strengthened through the effective functioning of the national union network

Outcome 3: At the enterprise/local level, labour unions and workers in the sectors/sub-sectors of the palm oil supply chain, in particular plantation workers, have better capacity to advocate for and access their rights

Outcome 4: Sound industrial relations are facilitated through strengthened capacity of the tripartite constituents to participate meaningfully in social dialogue.

Project Beneficiaries

The ultimate beneficiaries of the project are workers, both men and women, in permanent as well as non-standard forms of employment (i.e. casual, daily, etc.) across the palm oil supply chain in Indonesia, including plantations and small-scale producers and smallholder farmers engaged in contract arrangements with plantations managed by companies. The project envisages reaching at least 20,000 workers in the palm oil supply chain. Special attention will be dedicated to the improvement of working conditions of women on plantations who, despite being integral to plantation labour, are often underrepresented in worker organizations and decision-making processes.

The direct beneficiaries of the project are the trade unions, federations and confederations representing workers across the palm oil supply chain, employers’ associations and policy-makers and staff from national and local institutions, among them various government ministries and technical departments.

The identified local partners for the implementation of this project are workers’ and employers’ organizations in the palm oil supply chain. In particular, these are the federations and confederations that form the Indonesian Palm Oil Trade Union Network, which has been established with the support of the previous ILO project targeting the palm oil sector. On the employers’ side, the project will work closely with the Indonesia Palm Oil Association (GAPKI), representing employers in the palm oil sector, and the Indonesian Employers' Organization (Apindo) which has been a key partner in the implementation of the current ILO project.