On Sep 16th 2014, the Finnish NGO Finnwatch published a report on suspected violations of labour rights on Malaysian palm plantations belonging to the RSPO Member Company IOI Group. The report specifically referred to RSPO certified estates in the Malaysian states of Johor and Negeri Sembilan. Further to the report, the RSPO Secretariat has visited the Bkt Serampang and Bahau Estates on 12 September and then the Regent Estate on 26 Sept 2014 and carried out on the ground investigations.

Following the above visits and the related investigations, no evidence of infringement of the RSPO Principle and Criteria or National Legislation was found. However, it has become evident that improvement in the operations and policies of IOI Group are necessary in order for the Company to operate in line with RSPO’s values.

For this reason, the RSPO Secretariat has contacted both the Company and the Certification Bodies who had assessed the estates mentioned in the report, with recommendations for the below actions to be implemented:

1. Wages 

Although workers in the estates are currently been paid hourly rates according to the Malaysian National Regulations, it was observed that significant number of workers at Regent Estate were not receiving a monthly minimum wage (RM900/month). The RSPO sees a real need for thorough investigation to work towards the implementation of policies, in line with the RSPO guidelines, ensuring that workers are allocated enough work to enable them to receive at least a monthly minimum wage.

2. Worker’s accommodation conditions

During the RSPO Secretariat’s visit to the Regent Estate, it was apparent that some of the worker’s quarters require upgrading/repairs. This is corroborated by the workers (foreign and local) themselves through verbal interviews that complaints were made and actions taken were insufficient. The RSPO Secretariat has recommended the Company to act on this item promptly.

3. Agreements of workers contract through Labour Agencies

There is a risk that foreign workers might have been required to agree to their contracts when still in their country of origin, and thus not having been properly briefed or provided with a copy of the contract in their own language. This item requires further investigation by the Certification Bodies. Nonetheless, the Company should have clear policies in place that cover their relation with third party Labour Agencies and the handling of workers’ contracts.

4. Retention of worker’s passports

The Company is currently implementing a policy of holding the workers passports for security reasons. Further to the interviews conducted on the ground, this practice seems in accordance with the workers’ will and it is the Company practice to allow the workers to have access to their passports at all time. This said, the workers right to access their passport at all times is not clearly reflected in the Company’s written policy and we suggest for this policy to be reviewed and improved.

The RSPO looks forward to the Company’s prompt implementation of the above recommendations, which will be considered during the estates’ next certification assessments. The performance of both the Certification Bodies and the RSPO member companies will also be subjected to a periodical third party accreditation audit. The RSPO has also requested the relevant Certification Bodies to be more vigilant in their annual audits of such social elements at all times.

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