In 1996, the World Rainforest Movement and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association (IUF-UITA,IUL) made a joint statement to the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF) focused on the social aspects of plantation development, where "plantation workers are among the poorest and most exploited of all agricultural labourers."
The joint statement --endorsed by many other organisations-- expressed that "low wages are not the only problems faced by plantations labourers. The ILO (International Labour Organization) notes that, by and large, housing conditions in plantations continue to be characterised by overcrowding and insufficient and poor infrastructure. Medical assistance is poor especially in the lack of provision of preventive health care, sanitation and clean water supplies. Primary education facilities are generally insufficient to enable children to attend school regularly and complete their primary education. Poor safety standards are common particularly with regard to the misuse of agro-chemicals. All these problems are linked to the fact that the rights of plantations workers to organise and collective bargaining are commonly denied. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that, globally, prices for most plantation commodities have progressively declined in real terms in the past decades."
Additionally, the WRM and IUF stress that "rights to organise and bargain collectively are still denied in many countries and private companies have exploited this lack of protection by maintaining or driving down wages and benefits. Mechanisation has reduced the demand for and hence the bargaining force of labour. Even where commodity prices have risen in real terms, such as in the pulp and paper sector, benefits have rarely been passed on plantations workers. The trend towards the divestment of lands and reliance on contract farming and smallholder nucleus estates has had very varied effects. In some countries, small farmers have been able to benefit, by organising as cooperatives and through effective collective bargaining with processing and exporting industries. In other countries, however, where small-farmers are weakly organised or their rights to organise and bargain collectively are suppressed, companies have been able to increase their profits by shifting onto small-farmers the costs of health, schooling, pension and insurance provisions as well as the risks associated with spoiled and injuries."
The statement urged the IPF to take the issue on board, stressing the "urgent need for renewed efforts to ensure stronger protections for plantation workers and new mechanisms to allow more adequate consideration of their rights and interests in planning. "