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19 Mai 2022

Samuel Lovett, The Independent

UK: Judicial hearing over government’s decision to continue sourcing PPE from Supermax 'first case of its kind' to consider modern slavery in UK’s supply chain

"Government to face court hearing over links to PPE supplier accused of modern slavery", 19 May 2022

Legal action taken against the government’s decision to continue working with a PPE manufacturer accused of labour abuses is set to proceed to a full judicial hearing, in the first case of its kind to consider the presence of modern slavery in the UK’s supply chain.

The High Court granted permission for The Citizens, a non-profit group, to proceed in challenging the decision to continue using the UK subsidiary of the Malaysian company, Supermax, as an approved supplier of disposable gloves for NHS workers...

In November 2021, the UK government said it would investigate the claims of modern slavery made against Supermax.

Despite this, a month later a framework agreement was awarded to Supermax Heathcare Limited, the UK-based subsidiary of Supermax Corporation, and other suppliers in a contract deal worth £6bn.

As a result, The Citizens launched a legal case against the government claiming it had failed to tackle alleged modern slavery abuse in the NHS supply chain.

The lawsuit has been prepared by Wilson Solicitors LLP, which represents several current and former workers of Malaysian glove factories, including those run by Supermax. These workers have detailed allegations of debt bondage, physical abuse and forced labour while working at Supermax...

Workers in its factories claimed in 2019 that they had been forced to work up to 12 hours a day, for as many as 30 days in a row. Supermax has denied the allegations. It also declined to comment on the ongoing legal action being taken against the UK government...

A Department of Health and Social spokesperson said: “While we cannot comment on individual contracts, we take allegations of this nature very seriously and will take swift action where necessary.

“A proper due diligence process is carried out for all government contracts and our suppliers are required to follow the highest legal and ethical standards. If they fail to do so, we will remove them from current and future contracts.”