The new report, “The Great Palm Oil Scandal,” released Wednesday, “investigates labour exploitation on plantations in Indonesia that provide palm oil to Wilmar, which is the world’s largest processor and merchandiser of palm and lauric (palm kernel) oils and controls over 43% of the global palm oil trade.”
Wilmar provides palm oil to Kellogg’s and other producers of consumer goods.
The report states:
Amnesty International found serious human rights abuses on the plantations of Wilmar and its suppliers. These included forced labour and child labour, gender discrimination, as well as exploitative and dangerous working practices that put the health of workers at risk.
To document the use of child labor, Amnesty International interviewed workers, including several children. It concludes:
Some children started working from the age of eight years onwards and all were below 15 years of age. Most of the children help their parents in the afternoons, after attending school, and on weekends and holidays. However, some children have dropped out of schools and work for all or most of the day. Children carry heavy loads, as they have to carry sacks of loose fruits and some transport wheelbarrows full of heavy palm fruit bunches over uneven terrain and narrow bridges. They run the risk of injuries from repetitive movements, carrying heavy loads and from working in an environmental where they are exposed to chemicals.
The company did not deny that children had been seen at work, but said that it discouraged the practice. Amnesty International describes that response as insufficient, and says the company may be breaking the law.
In addition, Amnesty International found evidence of forced labor — specifically involving women: “Amnesty International documented cases of foremen threatening women workers in plant maintenance units with not being paid or having their pay deducted in order to exact work from them.” It also reports that some of Wilmar’s subsidiaries do not pay workers a daily minimum wage if they fail to meet their harvesting quotas.
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