Food and beverage giant PepsiCo's affiliate in Indonesia has been linked to child labour, worker exploitation, unethically low wages and hazardous working conditions, activists said.
The report, based on interviews last year with 41 workers at two plantations on the island of Sumatra, was jointly released by San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Indonesian labour rights group OPPUK and Washington-based International Labor Rights Forum. PepsiCo said its chief executive had written to Indofood in the light of the findings detailed in the report. Indofood did not respond to a request for comment, but said in a remark published in the report that it complied with all Indonesian laws and regulations. Women especially were rarely given permanent positions and made to do some of the most toxic jobs, such as apply highly hazardous pesticides, without adequate protection, the report found.

The groups also accused the company of turning a blind eye to child labour, with children as young as 13 spotted helping with harvesting at the plantations. Harvesters, who struggle under a high quota system requiring them to collect a certain amount before they can earn their wages, often bring their wives and children to help make ends meet. At one of the two plantations, workers received less than the local minimum wage of 2 million rupiah ($150) a month for permanent workers, or 80,000 rupiah a day for casual workers, the report, released last week, said.
Palm oil, commonly used in soap, cosmetics and food spreads, has been one of the fastest expanding crops in the past few decades. Lierley said the findings were the tip of the iceberg for Indonesia's palm oil industry.

It is a major driver of growth for Southeast Asia's largest economy but has been regularly linked to the destruction of rainforests and wildlife habitats, as well as displacement of indigenous communities.

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