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Malaysian Union Support Boosts Global Musim Mas Campaign

Posted to the IUF website 27-Feb-2006

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With strong support from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), the international trade union campaign for justice for the Indonesian Musim Mas workers and their union KAHUTINDO came directly to the industry and its apologists in a series of actions in Kuala Lumpur last week.

On February 20, an international union delegation intervened at the Executive Board meeting of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to highlight the need for serious RSPO action to pressure Musim Mas, a leading Roundtable member. The delegation included Syed Shahir, President of the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC), John Angelus and Khalid Atan, Vice-Presidents for the Asia/Pacific regions of the IUF and the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI), respectively. The union delegation presented to Round Table President Jan Kees Vis of Unilever evidence which systematically documents the company's savage violations of worker and trade union rights at its Pelalawan plantation and refinery and the Roundtable's abject failure to call Musim Mas to account. An open letter to the Executive Board, jointly signed by the IUF, BWI and MTUC, set out the specific measures the RSPO would have to undertake. Since the RSPO discussed the Musim Mas case at its Executive Board meeting in November last year, and concluded that it had no responsibility and no mechanisms for dealing with massive rights violations by the company which operates the world's largest palm oil refinery, 700 workers have been forcibly evicted from company housing and 5 union leaders condemned to prison terms of up to 2 years, with a sixth now on trial.

The following day, unionists again raised the case with the members of the RSPO "Criteria Working Group", and turned out in larger numbers on February 23 to leaflet the annual industry conference, which is attended by virtually all major players in the palm oil sector. Bolstered by a strong contingent of officers and members from the MTUC's construction and timber affiliates, the group (wearing t-shirts printed BUYERS BEWARE! PT Musim Mas UNION BUSTER!) distributed a leaflet to conference participants headed "Musim Mas: Buyer Beware!". "Although most delegates we spoke with represent palm oil producers, many were shocked by the disclosure" said MTUC President Syed Shahir. One delegate said, 'if the reports are true it is disgraceful and will affect palm oil producers as a whole.'"

To send a message to the government of Indonesia demanding the immediate and unconditional release of the Musim Mas 6, click here.