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23 Apr 2020

Pete Pattinson, The Guardian

UK: Govt. urged to avoid medical gloves made by migrant workers in Malaysia subject to forced labour & exploitation

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"NHS urged to avoid PPE gloves made in 'slave-like' conditions", 23 April 2020

The government must not ignore the “slave-like” conditions of migrant workers making rubber medical gloves in Malaysia in its rush to source protective equipment to keep frontline NHS staff safe from coronavirus...

Illegal recruitment fees, long hours, low pay, passport confiscation and squalid, overcrowded accommodation are commonplace... [C]onditions leave them vulnerable to forced labour and debt bondage... modern forms of slavery.

“The government must redouble its efforts to protect all workers, both the NHS staff who use protective equipment to save lives and the factory workers who supply it,” said Phil Bloomer, the director of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. “This means strengthened supply chain checks and the government using its leverage to improve conditions for workers.”

... [T]he surge in the global demand for rubber medical gloves has left glove factory workers in Malaysia more vulnerable than ever... In the rush to ramp up production, some glove manufacturers are failing to protect their staff, workers have told the Guardian...

NHS Supply Chain... manages the sourcing, delivery and supply of healthcare products for the NHS, said they no longer have contracts with Top Glove and WRP, but would not say if their current suppliers source from these companies, citing commercial sensitivity... “NHS Supply Chain takes all allegations of labour abuses in its supply chain very seriously, and we have a range of contractual arrangements and initiatives in place to try and prevent such situations arising.”