Center for Trade Union and Human Rights slammed the Department of Labor and Employment and Filipinas Palm Oil Plantation Inc.(FPPI)  response to child labor issue in the said company saying that the Anti-Child Labor Program developed by the Technical Working Group (TWG) are “far weaker than palliatives” and “deceiving the workers”.

CTUHR described the interventions made by the youtubemp3now management and various government agencies as “a positive result” of the report released last October 2012 which exposed that 24% of workers in oil palm plantations are below 18 years old. However, the group was also quick to criticize the proposals made by the Technical Working Group.  Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director expressed, “The recommendations are far weaker than palliatives because they fail to address the root causes of child labor like below minimum wage rates, long term contractualization among others.”Recently, the TWG adopted two courses of action as part of the Anti-Child Labor Program adopted in FPPI. These are 1) prohibiting and monitoring cases of child labor in FPPI and 2) provision of school buses for the children living inside the plantation.

“Merely prohibiting or monitoring child labor in FPPI is rubbish if issues of contractual work and depressed wages are not substantially addressed. This line of thinking only puts the blame back to the parents, the workers themselves, rather than to the exploitative conditions perpetuated by the FPPI management that pushes young family members to work in the plantation to increase family income,” Arago added.

Arago also hit the proposal to provide school buses saying such action is “useless if the workers cannot even afford to send their children to school since their wages are insufficient for their food expenses.”

The group said that these recommendations will not stop child labor, rather it will only push children to find work outside the plantation to augment their family needs.

Meanwhile CTUHR also denounced FPPI management’s move to stop hiring contractual workers as decietful.

“Instead of reinstating the 268 contractual workers as regular employees, they used the workers’ complaint against long-term contractualization to not hire these workers back. And although FPPI is no longer hiring casual workers directly, they are using the ‘cabo’ system wherein regular workers hire casual workers,” Arago averred.

In November last year, nearly 300 contractual workers were unjustly dismissed by FPPI after the DOLE held an ocular inspection of the company’s compliance to labor standards. The said inspection was prompted by the local union complaint about numerous cases of underpayment of wages, long-term casualization and absence of several benefits.

Arago expressed rage as well over the result of the tripartite discussion that emphasized the workers role in increasing the plantation’s productivity rather than addressing labor issues, “The way FPPI and DOLE managed to make it appear that child labor and casual work is stopped and then pass on the responsibility to increase productivity to the workers is brazenly sly,” Arago added.

The group reiterated their report’s recommendation to end child labor in FPPI and other palm oil plantations in Agusan and 1) implement the minimum wage rates for all employees, 2) regularize all casual workers who have worked in the FPPI for more than a year and 3) provide access to employment, livelihood and other services to families living inside the palm oil plantations.###