Malaysia: Top Glove denies migrant workers producing PPE are exposed to abusive labour practices & COVID-19 risk; Incl. responses from auditing firms
In June 2020, a Channel 4 investigation exposed evidence of migrant worker exploitation – including low wages, excessive overtime, illegal deductions from workers’ salaries, extortionate recruitment fees, poor living conditions and lack of social distancing arrangements – at Top Glove factories in Malaysia. Top Glove is the world's largest manufacturer of medical gloves and has reported a 366% increase in quarterly profits because of PPE demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Top Glove has been previously linked to exploitation of migrant workers and allegations of forced labour, passport confiscations, illegal withholding of pay and restricted freedom of movement.
In a press release, Top Glove denies the allegations and refers to “positive outcomes of audits” conducted by SMETA and its "A rating" received by amfori BSCI, as evidence that its labour practices meet international standards.
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Sedex (which owns the social audit methodology SMETA) and amfori BSCI to respond to the allegations and subsequent response by Top Glove. Sedex said it does not independently verify the content of SMETA audits which are conducted by third-party auditors. amfori said it has concerns over the A rating received by Top Glove factory GMP Medicare Sdn Bhd as well as the type of audit that was used, and cannot support the argument that amfori BSCI provides evidence that Top Glove's labour practices meet international requirements. Both responses are included below.
On 15 July 2020, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has enforced a detention order against Top Glove's subsidiaries to halt the importation of goods from companies suspected of using forced labour. The detention order is listed here under Malaysia.
On 9 September 2021, the CBP announced that it has modified the forced labour finding on Top Glove to allow the importation of disposable gloves manufactured in facilities in Malaysia. The CBP said that "Top Glove has addressed all indicators of forced labor identified at its Malaysian facilities".