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Malaysia: Condom supplier to NHS and British retailers accused of 'shameful' working conditions & labour abuses

Author: Nicola Smith, The Telegraph, Published on: 24 January 2019

"Revealed: Condom supplier to NHS and British high street accused of 'shameful' working conditions", 23 January 2019

...The Telegraph talked to 22 Nepali and Bangladeshi employees of Karex’s condom... factories [in Malaysia]... workers were living in cramped and undignified conditions... in damp and unhygienic dormitories...

Karex produces five billion condoms a year, accounting for roughly 15 per cent of the world market... [It's] website... video claims the firm is “helping humanity one condom at a time”. It describes itself as a “champion social responsibility and sustainability”.

Karex owns... Pasante Healthcare Ltd... which distributes its products in the UK... [C]lients include Tesco, Boots, Superdrug and Costco [and the NHS]. Globally Karex boasts a “clientele of... retailers in over 130 countries”. These... included... Reckitt Benkiser, the owner of Durex, and Global Protection Corp...

Karex said...it “does not believe that forced labour or modern slavery is currently occurring at our factories”. However... the Karex CEO, said the company... would hire “an independent firm specialising in ethical trade, human rights, labour standards” to carry out a “full social analysis” within 45 days. A committee of management and employees would also be created...

All those interviewed... said they would struggle to survive without daily overtime... The workers financial woes are compounded by fees demanded by recruitment firms and brokers in their home countries, which leave them in debt bondage for much of their first year of employment.

...An NHS Supply Chain spokesperson said: “We take all allegations concerning labour standard abuses very seriously and have contacted the supplier about this matter.”...

Superdrug said... [i]t’s most recent audit was conducted last week. “We have temporarily suspended all orders with the Karex Group however we have had an urgent call with our supplier to discuss the findings from our [recent] audit and these do not raise concerns”...

Tesco said it had also visited the factory last week and... had identified “a number of serious concerns”. It added: “We immediately suspended Tesco production at the site pending further investigation...”

Reckitt Benkiser, owner of Durex, said... it had a “zero tolerance” policy on human rights abuses. “We audited this Karex facility in 2018 and have been in active dialogue with the company to implement necessary corrective actions,”...

Global Protection Corp said: “We are taking this very seriously, and are already working with Karex to investigate.”

Boots had not replied at the time of going to press and USAID could not respond because of the US government shutdown.  

Read the full post here

Related companies: Boots (now Alliance Boots) Costco Global Protection Corp (part of Karex) Karex Reckitt Benckiser Superdrug (part of Hutchison Whampoa) Tesco