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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sime Darby seeks more info on forced labour allegations

 


Sime Darby Plantation Berhad said it is seeking more information on the allegations of forced labour that has led the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to ban its products from entering US soil.

It said the allegations made against it suggests a breach of its policies.

“The CBP’s news release does not provide sufficient information to allow Sime Darby Plantation to meaningfully address the allegations that triggered the issuance of the Withhold Release Order.

“Nevertheless, we look forward to receiving pertinent information and working with CBP in order to address their concerns and quickly resolve this matter,” it said in a statement today.

Sime Darby Plantation said it is also continuing to engage with the Hong Kong-based NGO Liberty Shared to obtain information that would enable corrective action to be taken.

Liberty Shared previously petitioned the CBP in April regarding alleged abuse of Sime Darby workers, which led to the ban.

In addition, the company had appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as a consultant to help combat forced labour and implement policies to protect workers' rights.

“The allegations made suggest a breach in the implementation of Sime Darby Plantation’s own strict policies. It would be in the interest of all parties, especially our foreign workforce and women employees, if these matters are addressed expeditiously.

“We hope to be able to enjoy the full support and cooperation of our NGO partners and the CBP to ensure that these vulnerable groups are protected,” it said.

Yesterday, the CBP imposed a ban on Sime Darby palm oil and products containing the oil from entering the US. Any such cargo would be detained at the country’s ports of entry.

The federal agency said it had information that “reasonably indicates” all 11 of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) forced labour indicators were present in the production process of Sime Darby Plantation.

This would have included abuse of vulnerability, deception, physical and sexual violence, withholding of wages, debt bondage, and retention of identity documents.

Sime Darby is the third Malaysian company to face such action from the CBP this year, also due to allegations of forced labour.

The other two were Top Glove Corp Bhd and FGV Holdings Bhd, both of whom denied the allegations but claimed to have also taken measures to improve workers’ wellbeing following the ban.

Separately, Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali expressed disappointment over the ban on Sime Darby Plantation's products.

He said the company did not have the opportunity to defend itself, and US authorities did not refer the matter to the Malaysian government to verify the veracity of the allegations.

He reiterated that while there had been an incidence of forced labour and child labour in Malaysia’s palm oil sector in the past, it was an isolated case based on a 2018 survey.

“The Malaysian government, through the Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry, is committed that if the allegation made by the US is true, it will take appropriate and firm action on any company involved in forced labour,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

He also said that the CBP's action against FGV in September did not have much impact on the company’s financial and operational performance. - Mkini

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