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European Unions in Solidarity with Musim Mas Workers Raise Pressure on EU Commisioners, Companies

Posted to the IUF website 20-Apr-2006

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The IUF's European regional organization EFFAT has called on European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Walder to formally raise with the Indonesian government the need for action to rectify gross violations of human rights by the Musim Mas palm oil company and local authorities' complicity in these abuses. In a letter dated April 19, EFFAT general secretary Harald Wiedenhofer urged Ferrero-Walder to "use the forthcoming talks on Indonesia as an opportunity to put pressure on the Indonesian authorities and Musim Mas to address these concerns. Indonesia benefits greatly from its relationship with the EU in terms of foreign aid and trade surplus. That surplus includes Musim Mas products, with Indonesia and Malaysia together producing the vast bulk of the palm oil products used by European industry today." The letter was copied to EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. The IUF is also actively pursuing other vehicles for action on Musim Mas in the European Parliament and the other EU institutions.

Two more European unions - the German Food and Allied Workers NGG and the Dutch FNV Bondgenoten - have echoed the public call by the Unilever European Works Council for Unilever to distance itself from Musim Mas and publicly reveal its sources for the palm oil in company products. To date, Unilever has failed to respond.

A wider circle of companies is now being targeted with similar demands. The IUF has informed Danone of the conflict at Musim Mas and indicated what we feel are the company's responsibilities in this situation. EFFAT IUF has called on the following companies, all of which are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (the "multistakeholder organization" chaired by Unilever's Jan Kess Vis which includes Musim Mas as an Executive Board member), to distance themselves and the RSPO from Musim Mas and to clarify their palm oil sources: AarhusKarlshamn AB, BIOX, Cadbury Schweppes, Cognis, CSM, Danisco, Ferrero, Fuji Oil Group, KOG Edible Oils, Lipidos Santiga, Nutriswiss, Santa Maria, Spychiger Oil Trading, Safic-Alcan, Kerry Group and Northern Foods. EFFAT has also communicated the IUF position on Musim to prominent non-RSPO food and retail companies and likewise called on them to make public their palm soil sources. The companies include Bunge Europe, Kraft, United Biscuits, Heinz, Kellogg's, PepsiCo, Arla Foods, Nestlé, RHM, Lactalis, Parmalat, Leaf, Mars, and Sara Lee. Similar initiatives are being prepared in other regions.