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19 Nov 2020

Zsombor Peter, Voice of America

Malaysian rubber glove makers pay migrant workers for recruitment fees after the U.S. halted importation of gloves over forced labor claims

"After US Sanctions, Malaysia Migrant Workers Get Millions in Restitution from Glove Makers", 19 November 2020

Malaysian rubber glove makers have started paying back thousands of migrant workers for recruitment fees totaling tens of millions of dollars since the U.S. stopped importing from some of them late last year over forced labor claims.


In September 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued a "withhold release order" against Malaysia's WRP Asia Pacific over evidence of forced labor at its factories, blocking imports of its gloves into the U.S. The agency issued a similar order in July against two subsidiaries of Malaysia's Top Glove, the world’s largest rubber glove maker.

The U.S. Customs order against Top Glove cited debt bondage specifically.

Since the orders, both companies have launched efforts to reimburse their migrant workers for the recruitment fees they paid to land their jobs. Top Glove says it has been covering the full recruitment costs of new hires since January 2019. [...]

In recent months, at least three more of Malaysia's leading glove makers not facing U.S. sanctions — Hartalega, Kossan and YTY — have announced similarly sweeping payback schemes of their own.

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufactures Association, which represents the sector, said the companies have committed at least $61 million to the effort in all to address the U.S. forced labor claims. It did not say how many workers are due to be paid back, but Top Glove said in an August statement that it alone will be reimbursing more than 9,000.

Hartalega, Top Glove, YTY and the association all turned down VOA's requests for interviews. Kossan and WRP have not replied.


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