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13 Dec 2020

Liz Lee & A. Ananthalakshmi, Reuters

Malaysia's Top Glove fired whistleblower before virus outbreak

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13 December 2020

Yubaraj Khadka, a worker in Malaysia for Top Glove Corp, took two photos in May of fellow employees crowding into a factory of the world’s biggest maker of medical-grade latex gloves.


On Sept. 23, Top Glove sent Khadka a letter terminating his employment for sharing the photos. In the letter, seen by Reuters, the company said it identified him as the originator of the photos from CCTV coverage of workers entering the factory.


“There was no one-metre distancing. That’s what I wanted to show,” Khadka told Reuters from Nepal, where he is looking for work. “Even at the factory, after the first few months (of infections in Malaysia), the social distancing markers were thrown out.”


Top Glove told Reuters in a statement [...] that it introduced temperature screening and more regular sanitisation of factories, offices, transport vehicles and dormitories at the beginning of the pandemic, and that it is in the process of improving its workers’ accommodation. [...]

Top Glove said [...] during its financial results call that 94% of workers tested are now fit to return to work.

The company told Reuters it resolved matters with Khadka amicably, but declined to comment further on the issues raised by his photos and by a complaint from the workers’ rights campaigner, Andy Hall.


Hall, 41, said he sent the photos to officials at Malaysia’s trade and health ministries and did not receive a reply. [...]


“We are mindful there is much more to be done to uplift the standard of our employee welfare and promise to rectify shortcomings immediately,” Top Glove said in its quarterly earnings statement [...].

It said it has spent about $5 million buying apartments for workers in the last two months and is renting more houses for them. It said it has earmarked about $25 million for investment in workers’ facilities and accommodation, including what it called “mega-hostels.”