Palm oil - international union meeting says moratorium urgently needed
IUF affiliates representing palm oil plantation workers in Asia, Africa and Latin America met in Bogota on March 12 and 13, 2015 to develop a strategy and work plan for IUF activities in the sector.
IUF global sugar and palm oil coordinator Jorge Chullén reminded participants that palm oil was present in 1 of every 2 items sold in supermarkets. He detailed production by region and examined the influence of transnational companies in palm oil (the conference background paper is available here).
The conference opened with a screening of Bajo Aguán: Grito por la tierra (Bajo Aguán: The cry for the land) produced by IUF Latin America in conjunction with Alba-Sud and others. The film shows the violence, expropriation and community displacements in Honduras caused by the installation of new palm oil plantations and the ongoing struggle to defend rights.
Palm oil workers also confront serious health and safety risks, including exposure to the highly toxic herbicide Paraquat, musculoskeletal injuries and injuries from falling fruit.
A conference resolution recognized "The need for an urgent moratorium on the spread of unsustainable palm plantations". The secretariat was mandated to send a support message to communities in Honduras fighting land grabbing for palm oil plantations.
The work plan proposes a focus on organizing and better representing workers on palm oil plantations, and in particular to fight precarious work and out-sourcing; to improve wages and win living wages; to improve occupational health and safety and to win a global ban on Paraquat.
Another resolution condemned the recent attacks on the leadership of IUF's Colombian affiliate SINTRAINAGRO, whose membership include palm oil workers, and expressed solidarity with all Colombia trade unionists facing violence and insecurity.