Palm oil producer attacked over labour abuses

30 June 2021

Malaysia palm oil company IOI Corp is facing criticism over its treatment of workers on several fronts.

In a report Finnwatch said it had been tracking working conditions at IOI since 2014 and claimed estate workers from India were paying high recruitment fees to secure jobs but living in poor conditions.

Finnwatch also claimed workers were also not given copies of their employment contracts.

IOI is also facing a possible investigation after the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a letter to an activist it was looking in to forced labour allegations at the company.

Migrant rights activist Andy Hall had contacted the CBP over concerns of forced labour.

In the past the US has banned exports from Malaysian palm oil producers FGV Holdings and Sime Darby Plantations for alleged forced labour violations after similar investigations.

IOI has vowed to cooperate with any investigation.

It said in a statement it had not been contacted by CBP but would contact the agency itself to confirm the existence of an investigation and offer co-operation.
“IOI is well aware of the importance of our workers’ rights and working conditions, as well as the requirement to adhere to Malaysian labour laws and international labour standards,” it said.

The company said it had been a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and among the first Malaysian companies to announce a zero recruitment fees policy.

Reuters reported Indian workers had paid 45,000 rupees ($606.31) in recruitment fees to obtain work at IOI.

“The case also brought into light serious, persisting gaps in the IOI Group’s wider recruitment and wage policies, and commitment to respect for human rights,” Finnwatch said.

“The workers live on the estate in houses which 2–3 people share. Workers reported poor living conditions to Finnwatch,” the NGO added.

“There was mould on the walls of the houses, the toilets and kitchen areas were in poor condition and some of the workers slept on the floor without beds and mattresses.”

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