Labor groups says 24% of workers in oil palm plantations are children

IN TIME with the celebration of Children’s month, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights presented to the public yesterday October 4, the findings of its research on child labor in oil palm plantations in Caraga revealing that 24% of workers in the said industry are children between 5-17 years old.

“While children are supposed to go school, play and developed themselves, our study revealed that a significant number of these children living in oil palm plantations are forced to work to augment their family income,” said Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive Director.

The study was conducted by CTUHR from September 2011 to May 2012 in partnership the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), a Washington-based non-governmental organization and the Nakahiusang Kababay-ehan sa Manat (NKM), a women’s organization in Agusan del Sur. The public presentation was co-sponsored by the Church-People Workers Solidarity (CWS).

The study showed that child workers in oil palm plantations work as much as 12 hours a day. Jobs assigned to child workers could be very physically demanding such as hauling a 15 to 50-kg palm fruit bunch and load it to the truck.

According to the study, among the factors that contribute to the presence of child labor in oil palm plantation are low access of their family members to employment, depressed wages, and the casual status of most adult workers even if they have worked in the plantations for as long as 30 years.

“We ourselves were awed to find out that palm oil plantations have very little contribution in terms of employment, which is only 18% of the total household members surveyed. Worse, palm oil companies gravely violate labor standards by not giving majority of the workers the prescribed minimum wage and by not giving them tenure even if they have worked for their respective companies or farms for decades.”

“But the government of P-Noy is still pushing for the expansion of palm oil plantations placing it among the sunshine industries. This is very alarming because communities have barely benefited from these [palm oil] plantations,” Arago added. She also said that lands belonging to lumads were reportedly grabbed by so-called lost commands during Martial law and were turned into oil palm plantations. Up to now, agrarian reform beneficiaries are swayed into long-term onerous contracts where companies only pay P2000 per hectare per year.

“Needless to say, all gains go to businesses while the life of workers and their families are barely improving. This must change,” Arago averred.

Arago also called on the public to join them in their campaign to combat child labor by supporting the campaign for the improvement of workers’ condition and providing livelihood and services to the families in oil palm plantations. “In the end, child labor can only end if parents have the capacity to support their children by upholding their rights to a living wage, access to livelihood and social services for children and themselves.”


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