Sime Darby Plantation engages with Liberty Shared over petition

PETALING JAYA: Sime Darby Plantation Bhd has commenced talks with Hong Kong-based activist group Liberty Shared over a petition to the US Customs and Border Protection to block the planter’s exports into the US.

“We have contacted Liberty Shared by e-mail and have had a tele-conversation with Duncan Jepson, the author of the petition, to initiate discussions and to better understand concerns raised,” Sime Darby Plantation said in a statement today.

The group reiterated that it is committed to eradicate any and all instances of human rights infringements within its operations and supply chain.

Liberty Shared had submitted a petition to the US Customs and Border Protection against Sime Darby Plantation, claiming that Sime Darby Plantation is using forced and child labour practices and urged an import ban on palm oil products produced by the planter or its associate companies.

“If there is cause, we will immediately institute appropriate corrective actions to secure the wellbeing of all our employees,” Sime Darby Plantation said.

For this reason, Sime Darby Plantation has requested for further details and information of the breaches and serious allegations alleged in Liberty Shared’s petition. Despite the absence of information, it will still provide an initial response in the best possible manner, based on statements contained in the petition summary, and its internal records relating to the matters raised.

The group said it has always and will continue to close all gaps and correct any lapses in its operations and supply chain. It will also continue to further engage, raise awareness and train its managers, assistant managers, and mandors on responsible business behaviour.

“Any non-compliance to our commitments will be addressed swiftly and firmly, after thorough investigations are concluded. We will also take all necessary steps to minimise the risk of such issues recurring,” it said.

Among the concerns raised by the petitions are issues relating to wage payments, recruitment fees, deception in hiring, passport and housing, to which Sime Darby Plantation has responded with its current practice and procedure.

On issues pertaining to recruitment, the group has introduced direct recruitment, transparent contracts, absorbing recruitment cost as well as training and engagement of its recruitment agents, to uphold responsible recruitment practices.

However, the group acknowledged that there is the issue of sub-agents that is out of its control in the origin countries.

“Even though sub-agents are not recognised, in reality, the industry relies on sub-agents to socialise jobs, especially in remote areas. Workers may be led to believe that they need to pay for ‘recruitment costs’ that they do not understand.”