Bridging Communication between Palm Oil Trade Union
Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil in the world. Based on Bappenas, about 16 million people work in the palm oil supply chain. However, the workers who are represented by a trade union is less than 3 million at national level for all sectors. On the other hand, the broad and scattered landscape of trade unions has been part of democracy development in Indonesia. As part of Civic Engagement Alliance, CNV Internationaal has managed to set up an Indonesian Palm Oil Trade Union Network, which is also developed with support from the International Labour Organization (ILO).
A mosaic of unions
A large variety of different trade union movements at national, provincial, district, and factory levels are representing the workers in this key industry. A lack of cooperation between various movements has been hindering social dialogue and joint action to address serious labour rights violations and improve the position of workers. This situation triggered competition and disputes between trade unions, which harms both the position of workers as well as trade unions.
Disputes between trade unions resulted in a decreasing number of workers joining the trade unions and a diminishing number of trade unions in recent years; the number of workers joining the unions decreased to 2.7 million in 2017, compared to 3.4 million members in 2007. Based on 2014 data, there were six confederations, with one hundred federations and 6,808 trade unions.
To combine forces
The above situation was the background of the first discussion between CNV Internationaal and the ILO in December 2017. The question was what could be done to improve the effectiveness of the trade unions representing the workers' voices of the oil palm plantations? Both CNV Internationaal and the ILO have networks of oil palm trade unions, consisting of ten trade unions and four confederations. How could we improve the cooperation of the trade union federations and confederations, while working towards a common goal: improving workers rights. After several meetings with the various trade unions, the ILO and CNV Internationaal agreed to combine these two networks and started a trust-building phase among trade unions. CNV Internationaal and ILO facilitated capacity building events and started to develop a database to know the geographical scope of each trade union.
First network meeting
The network was initiated to align with the effort to promote sustainable development and decent work in the palm oil sector in Indonesia. At the end of 2017, the first network meeting was held. Within the network CNV Internationaal introduced the concept of social dialogue, networking functions, and alternative ways of dispute resolution. In August 2018, CNV held a three-days lobby and advocacy training in Jakarta. This training was a momentum for the network members to become more familiar and blend. Goals of the network were being discussed such as strengthening the capacity of trade unions in advocating workers' issues, to improve standards of settling labour disputes and to improve social dialogue, also with other stakeholders.
In the beginning of November 2018, CNV Internationaal and ILO facilitated the network of trade unions in transforming into a formal network by organizing several meetings. On December 5, 2019, the Indonesian Palm Oil Workers' Union Network was finally formally formed and called JAPBUSI (Jaringan Pekerja Buruh Sawit Indonesia). Witnessed by the Ministry of Manpower, Gapki and the Netherlands Embassy, the trade unions and confederations involved signed a code of ethics and established a joint secretariat for the coordination of activities, collaboration, and communication among members. CNV Internationaal and ILO are committed to continue supporting this network that represents 2 million oil palm workers. We believe this network can strengthen the bargaining position of workers.