New Straits Times

FOREIGN WORKERS SATISFIED WITH WAGES, BENEFITS

Sime Plantation denies HK group’s claims, says it has robust framework in place

- AZANIS SHAHILA AMAN KUALA LUMPUR

bt@nst.com.my

MORE than t wo months ago, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd (Sime Plantation) was hit by allegation­s of wage theft, forced and child labour, bribery and money laundering from a Hong Kong-based activist group. It had also called for the United States to ban imports of the company’s products.

Sime Plantation, the world’s largest oil palm plantation company by planted area, has denied the allegation­s. It said as a multinatio­nal listed company operating in 16 countries and serving the interests of a large number of stakeholde­rs, it had put in place a robust framework, policies and operating procedures on corporate governance, risk management and internal controls that extended beyond the regulatory and commercial requiremen­ts.

The activist group claimed it found presence of labour abuse in Sime Plantation after conducting interviews with workers and civil society, and scrutinisi­ng public disclosure­s, audit reports, and sustainabi­lity initiative­s.

The New Straits Times recently visited Sime Plantation’s Tennamaram Estate in Bestari Jaya, Selangor to gain an insight into the group’s migrant worker management systems and practices.

The 1,840ha estate boasts a total of 165 workers comprising 59 locals and 106 from Indonesia, India and Bangladesh.

These workers are involved in harvesting ripe fruits, pruning trees, applying fertiliser­s, transporti­ng fruit bunches to mills and spraying herbicides.

We sat down with three workers from Indonesia, India and Bangladesh who shared their experience­s working at the estate.

WAGES AND OVERTIME

Sinah, 37, from Indonesia, said Sime Plantation had always set productivi­ty targets that were fair for the satisfacto­ry completion of alloted work during a normal working day of eight hours, or spread over a period of 10 hours (overtime).

He said workers were not imposed with targets that were tied to their basic salary, which was important.

“I had known about Sime Plantation from my family and friends before coming to Malaysia. They said working with the group will guarantee you a minimum wage, and yes, it’s true. The informatio­n on payment is clearly provided during the orientatio­n, too.”

Asked if they had faced issues of abuse, including non-payment of wages, forced confinemen­t and excessive working hours with no rest days or breaks, and child labour, Sinah said there was no such thing happening at Tennamaram Estate.

“I did not see any indication­s of forced and child labour here. We have the choice to work overtime and I can confirm that there are no issues regarding lack of over

time pay and rest.

“Even during this Covid-19 pandemic, our minimum wage is guaranteed with no wage deductions,” he said.

HOUSING AND FACILITIES

Tennamaram Estate general worker from Bangladesh, Omer Farok, 35, said Sime Plantation had provided fair and equal employment opportunit­ies for employees, regardless of race, nationalit­y, religion or gender.

“I have been working here for almost five years, and I did not find any discrimina­tory practices against us (migrant workers).”

He said all workers also enjoyed productivi­ty-based income initiative­s and other benefits.

These include free housing, sub sid is ed electricit­y, free potable water of up to 50 gallons every month, supply of rice, cooking oil and other grocery items, free medical treatment for employees and their immediate dependents, as well as amenities such as recreation­al facilities and festival celebratio­ns.

OCCUPATION­AL HEALTH AND SAFETY

Bappa Mondal from India said Sime Plantation provided workers with adequate equipment and training on the implementa­tion of health and safety policies.

Mondal felt that Sime Plantation was a safe place to work and he was also aware about the standard procedures for reporting and responding to injuries in the workplace.

“I have been working with Sime Plantation for three years. I am generally happy with the provision of light machines that have aided in my work.

“I am also satisfied with the company’s policy of providing free personal protective equipment and tools because some of my friends who work with other plantation companies need to buy their own.”

He said since the Recovery Movement Control Order period, Sime Plantation had conducted additional daily operating procedures for all workers to ensure their safety.

 ?? BLOOMBERG PIC ?? Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is the world’s largest oil palm plantation company by planted area.
BLOOMBERG PIC Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is the world’s largest oil palm plantation company by planted area.

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