Last Sunday’s article in the Wall Street Journal has exposed horrific abuses on Malaysian palm oil plantations.
When U.S. companies were mandated to label trans fat on their packaging in 2006, snack corporations began looking for alternative ingredients. They found palm oil, and today about half of all packaged products in grocery stores contain it in some form. This surge in demand has developed a labour boom on Malaysian palm oil plantations, but sadly many of the workers are being exploited.
The article points highlights some of the abuses:
- Workers live in isolated huts in the forest, and many are forced to purchase their food and supplies for an artificially high price from the contractors that employ them.
- Some workers are paid less than the minimum wages, and some receive no payment at all.
- Employees have to work at least 26 days a month to qualify for the minimum wage. Workers said supervisors sometimes didn’t give them enough work to meet that threshold.
- Some workers claimed they had to use toxic pesticides without protection.
Read the full article here.
- The palm oil industry falls prey to the same scenario as the clothing industry: subcontractors. Big companies (like Cargill, Nestle, and P&G) hire huge plantations to make their product. That huge plantation hires subcontractors to hire employees, and this is where vulnerable people fall through the cracks. It becomes almost impossible for a company like Cargill to monitor how the myriad of subcontractors are treating their workers.
- The current supply chain structure needs to be re-invented. As long as long, complex chains are permitted to exist, human will exploit each other for profit.