Kuala Lumpur, 24 September 2020 – In response to recent concerns over the hiring of parolees in its Malaysian operations, Sime Darby Plantation (SDP) reaffirms our pledge and commitment to protecting the rights of all our workers including the parolees who have voluntarily agreed to a paid placement in our plantations under the Corporate Smart Internship (CSI) programme held in collaboration with the Malaysian Prison Department (MPD). The CSI programme launched by the MPD in 2016 aims to assist parolees prepare to be reintegrated into society by equipping them with employable skills. It has seen the participation of around 80 private companies in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing.
To further clarify on the CSI programme, we highlight the following:
SDP is proud to be supporting the CSI programme because we realise that assimilating into society whilst being dogged by stigma is not an easy task for most former inmates. Our aspiration in collaborating with MPD through this programme is to help parolees turn over a new leaf and build a better future for themselves and the families.
At SDP, we are committed to respect, support and uphold fundamental human rights as expressed, amongst others, in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Our commitment to human rights is anchored in our Human Rights Charter (established since 2017) as well as our Code of Business Conduct which we strictly adhere to in our day-to-day operations.
SDP does not tolerate any form of exploitation including in the hiring of parolees under the CSI programme. Any attempt by certain quarters to suggest that the CSI programme involves exploitation of the parolees is not only misleading, it is also insensitive towards the plight of parolees who are making the effort to become valuable members of our society.
We further clarify that SDP has been involved in the CSI programme since 2019, even before the issue of labour shortage in the industry arose out of the current travel restrictions to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The current labour shortage has set SDP back by almost 3,000 workers, especially harvesters. Even though the CSI programme does provide additional manpower at our operations, the availability of workforce from this section of the community is limited. It is insufficient to address the labour shortage we are currently facing. Furthermore, the parolees are only tasked with general works, and not harvesting works where we have acute shortages.
Thus, our current focus in solving the labour shortage is to continue our efforts in recruiting qualified and readily available local candidates from the conventional job market, as well as expediting our efforts in mechanisation and automation. Whilst we continue to persuade unemployed locals to join the plantation industry, recruiting foreign workers, especially for harvesting work, remains the main practical solution for us at this point in time due to the lacklustre interest shown by locals despite our recruitment efforts thus far.