Whilst plasma smallholder programmes can bring cash benefits to communities, we also want to ensure that the communities have access to alternative livelihoods. An integral aspect of our CSR Programme is the ongoing effort to help the community in and surrounding our plantations to achieve economic progress and improved standards of living via our Local Economic Empowerment Programme. We are mindful that such empowerment programmes may involve a shift in social norms embedded within the community’s living culture, and we have taken efforts and will continue our efforts to build acceptance and encourage participation. We will conduct surveys and suggest programmes that fit into the local context, enhancing existing community activities e.g. through training and guidance on financial and business planning.
To help the community start their business, we provide capital, in form and/or in kind, for various entrepreneurial activities such as aquaculture, poultry and vegetable farming. We observed that this ‘joint-venture’ approach brings about higher level of participation from the community. We continually provide mentoring guidance to the local community groups on the development of knowledge and conduct training programmes on how to increase productivity. We also provide support in sourcing for marketplaces and/or commercial buyers for the harvested crops and farmed fishes. To further boost local business development, the Group also employs the services and manpower of local contractors when possible.
Our gradual change of approach, from sporadic to a systematic and coordinated, is yielding encouraging responses from the community as well as credible financial returns for the community that participated in this economic programme.
Education And Child Care
Our plantations are largely located in remote areas with limited access to school and child care facilities. We are therefore putting tremendous effort and financial resources into a comprehensive educational programme. In 2017, we operate 36 schools, employ 275 teachers and provide education from kindergarten to junior high school to approximately 4,700 students. We also had child care facilities for younger children while their parents are working in the field.
In addition to our belief that children should have access to a quality education, this also helps in preventing children being brought into the field for casual work – a common occurrence in the palm oil sector and an issue which is difficult to address without the provision of alternative means of child care.
We have also provided the local communities with educational scholarships covering elementary to tertiary levels. The scholarship recipients comprise top students selected from the schools located in or near our plantations. In addition, we contribute to the local schools by sponsoring training programmes for the development of teachers and principals. Our Group also provides free schooling, books and school bus transportation to students attending the schools we built.
Human Rights of Workers
The palm oil sector is a highly competitive labour market and we have always strived to be an employer of choice for both manual workers and professional staff and management. As such, we believe that we provide decent and competitive conditions for all our employees. With the introduction of our new Sustainability Policy, we have reaffirmed this commitment with explicit reference to the ILO Core Conventions and the Universal Declaration for Human Rights. These frameworks provide for minimum standards for fair and decent working conditions with no exploitative workplace practices allowed. We employ workers on a permanent or a daily or casual basis. Our preference is to retain employees on a permanent basis, but we also need flexibility as the need for manual work is highly seasonal. As our plantations mature, work becomes more regular and hence we are seeing a gradual increase in workers on permanent contracts from 48% in 2012 to 55% in 2014.
Non-Discrimination And Gender Diversity
Our policy explicitly prohibits any form of discrimination in recruitment or working conditions. Women and men earn the same wage or salary for equal work.
While our field staff has a gender-balance representative of the Indonesian labour pool, we recognise that we have misbalance in terms of women represented at professional staff and management. We believe this is partially an industry-wide issue, with very few women wishing to work in remote locations such as Kalimantan and Riau.
In a competitive labour market with a highly mobile labour pool, we are aware that we need to offer great working conditions, housing and of course wages which are attractive and fair at all levels from a novice manual workers to experienced senior management.
The provinces in which we operate have seen tremendous wage increases over the past three years ranging from 29% in Riau to 53% in West Kalimantan, and considerably above inflation of around 22% of inflation in the consumer price index from 2012-2014. Our average minimum starting wages has been adjusted accordingly, seeing a group average increase of just above 30% over 3 years, starting from 2012.
Freedom Of Association
As part of our commitment to the ILO Core conventions, and in line with both the RSPO P&C and Indonesian legalisation, we fully respect the right of all employees to form and join unions of their own choosing. Currently, there are no active unions in our operations. Over the past two years, we have not experienced labour disputes or industrial actions.
Bonded Or Forced Labour
Our policy strictly prohibits the use of bonded or forced labour, and is not considered as a material risk for our operations. All of our workers are Indonesian nationals and are free to travel and leave employment with us at will. We do not require deposits or withhold identity documents. We do require apprentices to remain in our service for a minimum of two years, failing which the value of the training must be repaid.
We prohibit the employment of children under the age of 18, with the exception of structured apprenticeships for over 16-year-olds as allowed by Indonesian law. All prospective employees are subject to age checks, for example through school records. Although we supply a high standard of education, designed to keep local children in school, we do recognise that employees and smallholders sometimes bring their children to the field during high harvesting seasons to assist in loose fruit collection. This is strictly against our regulations as the field is considered a hazardous work environment for children and all supervisors are required to enforce this regulation without exception.
The Group has provided free basic healthcare services to all our employees since 2004. Bumitama operates clinics 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with emergency room facilities, inpatient room hospitalisation, delivery room facilities and pharmacies. We have also implemented a system whereby we work in cooperation with health centers and hospitals to arrange for doctors from local clinics and hospitals to conduct health check-ups for employees in each estate, and provide free medication where necessary. Our ambulance vehicle is on hand to transport patients to and from referral hospitals as needed. We aim to foster a healthy family environment in our communities through the provision of family planning services to employees and residents, through which contraceptives or prenatal care can be obtained and reproductive counseling provided. Bumitama also offers baby care facilities and provides vitamin A to infants. In 2012, Bumitama won the National Competition Awards for Family Planning.
Social and Culture
We have also contributed to the social and cultural welfare of the local communities by helping to build and repair places of worship such as mosques, churches and temples. We also carry out public works development and maintenance such as roads and bridges leading to and from our estates, and opening new access roads to previously inaccessible areas. To promote cultural values, we sponsor and participate in traditional events and social functions. In this way, we are able to maintain strong ties with the local communities.