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Clean Gloves, Dirty Practices: Debt Bondage in Malaysia’s Rubber Glove Industry

On October 1, the [...] U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency announced an import ban on WRP’s gloves due to “evidence of multiple indicators of forced labor.” Previous media investigations of WRP found migrant workers subjected to passport confiscations, illegal withholding of pay, restricted freedom of movement, and more.

The wake-up call prompted swift reactions in Malaysia... 

The Diplomat questioned major American corporate buyers [...] if they knew about these allegations and how they monitor suppliers...

None reported publicly about supplier due diligence audit findings...

Brands that outsource production to low-cost countries trust audit firms to check working conditions at suppliers. Public and private healthcare procurers trust the brands’ trust in the auditors. Hospitals trust the procurement organizations’ trust in the brands’ trust in the auditors...

Professionals involved in social audits of glove manufacturers [...] said that huge debts due to recruitment fees is a well-known issue, but not considered a forced labor indicator traditionally. Industry sources also said that zero-cost recruitment, i.e. ensuring that workers are actually compensated, might be policy but not practice before 2019, overall speaking.

Social audits are increasingly scrutinized by civil society groups demanding transparency by, and liability of, corporate-controlled auditors...

Healthcare procurers hold significant purchasing power to leverage for decent supply chains conditions...

[The full article includes comments from companies.]

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