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20 Jul 2020

Max Walden, ABC News

Australia: Rubber gloves imported from Malaysia could be linked to forced labour

"Rubber gloves entering Australia from Malaysia could be linked to forced labour, with US restricting imports", 21 July 2020

Rubber gloves used in Australia's fight against coronavirus could be produced by slave labour, corporate watchdogs warn, after the United States banned imports of products from the world's largest manufacturer.

Malaysia's Top Glove, which is estimated to produce one in five gloves globally, had a detention order imposed on its products by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on July 15.


In a statement responding to the detention order, Top Glove said it had "already resolved" alleged labour violations against migrant workers at its facilities.


Amy Sinclair, regional representative in Australia for the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: "This really should be a very live issue for Australian companies who are importing from Malaysia, where we know that there are issues and we know there is a history of poor practices."


Unlike the US, Australia does not require importers to prove there is no forced labour in their supply chain.

[...] Australian Border Force told the ABC: [...] "Australia is taking a global leadership role in addressing modern slavery risks in international supply chains through our Modern Slavery Act 2018," they said.


"It's weak because it doesn't have financial penalties," Ms Sinclair of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre said.

"But it is a quite significant first step and it does force companies to look at their supply chains and what the potential risks to workers are."


[...] [T]he World Health Organization (WHO) said that to meet global demand, manufacturing of PPE would have to be increased by 40 per cent.


"It's really critical at this time [that] efforts to protect all workers are redoubled," Ms Sinclair said.

"Companies should be ensuring that rigorous checks are still being taken, that they are checking what their suppliers are doing, and that they are using their leverage to encourage their suppliers to prioritise health and safety at this time."

Part of the following timelines

Malaysia: Medical glove manufacturers see surge in orders due to COVID-19, amid forced labour concerns

Malaysia: Top Glove denies migrant workers producing PPE are exposed to abusive labour practices & COVID-19 risk; Incl. responses from auditing firms