Malaysia: Medical and rubber glove manufacturers accused of labour abuses

Malaysian glove manufacturers have been accused of mistreating workers, allegedly subjecting migrant workers to forced labour, forced overtime, debt bondage, withheld wages and passport confiscation. The glove manufacturers, who supply medical and rubber gloves globally, have since come under scrutiny. The allegations have prompted an investigation by the United Kingdom, whose National Health Service uses medical gloves imported from Malaysian glove suppliers. 

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11 March 2019

Australia: Glove firm Ansell announces global supply chain review after Malaysian supplier linked to labour abuses

Author: Nassim Khadem, ABC

"Update: Ansell announces global review", 11 March 2019

On February 28, Ansell said in a statement that it may need to strengthen labour standards across its supply chains following the worker exploitation allegations.

"As labour standards are fundamental to the health and safety of our employees, we have begun a comprehensive global review of our supply chain, covering both third-party supplier and Ansell's own facilities," the company said.

"The review will assess whether implementation of our standards has been fully effective and appropriate and whether our standards need to be updated or strengthened further to ensure an even safer working environment."

"We will also assess the effectiveness of mechanisms we have in place to provide independent verification of our compliance with these standards."

The review would also ensure that companies in its supply chains including Top Glove, meet its standards and have independent audits ensure they are compliant, Ansell said.

It would assess International Labour Organisation guidelines to determine "what additional standards are legal and appropriate in the countries in which Ansell operates".

The outcome of Ansell's supply chain review would be unveiled at the company's annual general meeting later in the year.

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1 February 2019

Malaysia: Govt set to take glovemaker to court over withholding wages

Author: Reuters

"Malaysia to take glovemaker to court for not paying workers", 1 February 2019

Malaysia said... it would take a medical glove manufacturer to court after it failed to pay its workers for three months, sparking a protest.

The government launched an investigation against WRP after workers, who are mainly from Bangladesh and Nepal, went on strike. It found their wages had been withheld since November.

WRP confirmed there had been a protest by workers but said the dispute had now been resolved... it said it was unaware of the government's plans to prosecute, and called the charges "unfounded".

"The prosecution will be made soon to ensure the same offence would not be repeated and as a warning to other employers," Malaysia's Labour Department said in a statement.

This was despite WRP agreeing to settle the outstanding wages... It did not say how many workers were affected... The government said the company had also breached other labour laws, including making unlawful salary deductions.

WRP said it had "managed to settle the matter from the workers' side" and was working with "various recruitment agencies and local contractors in order to ensure our migrant workers' interest are better taken care of in the future"...

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17 January 2019

CSOs express migrant worker concerns in open letter to Malaysian Govt

Author: amfori, Ethical Trading Initiative, Ethical Trading Initiative Norway, Social Accountability International & Sedex

"Situation of migrant workers in Malaysia", 17 January 2019

Dear Minister Kulasegaran,

We... write you to express our concerns about the situation of migrant workers and refugees working in Malaysia and would like to offer our support in creating an environment that is conducive to business and respects human rights. Our organisations represent a large number of international brands, retailers, suppliers and public bodies that source a significant share of products and services from Malaysia...

We have been closely observing recent developments related to the employment conditions of migrant workers in rubber gloves and condom factories exporting to Europe, the USA, Australia, Japan and across the world. We are concerned about allegations of severe violations of workers’ and human rights... that may constitute forced labour or create the conditions that pose a high risk of modern slavery. We are also concerned about the recent announcement... to introduce salary deductions to retain migrant workers in their employment. Such action could generate risks of debt bondage....

... we would like to recommend that you: a) Reconsider... the current proposal to deduct 20% of migrant workers’ earnings without workers’ consent, which violates international labour standards...

Signatories: amfori; Ethical Trading Initiative; Ethical Trading Initiative Norway; Social Accountability International; Sedex

Read the full letter, including recommendations, here.

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4 January 2019

Australia: Ansell says investigation into alleged Top Glove labour abuses is underway

Author: Nassim Khadem, ABC

"Ansell says worker rights abuse in its supply chains under investigation", 4 January 2019

Ansell chairman Glenn Barnes says the company is investigating allegations one of its major Malaysian suppliers is abusing worker rights, and will dump any supplier it finds is exploiting workers. The company, he said, also wants to improve conditions in its own factories in Malaysia...

"We were surprised to hear what's come out of this Top Glove inquiry and we are in the process of talking to Top Glove to work out whether what was reported was correct or not," Mr Barnes said. "And if it is correct, how quickly they [Top Glove] can rectify the situation, or we will need to find other suppliers."...

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18 December 2018

Malaysia: migrant rights coalition criticises govt. for defending Top Glove

Author: Syed Jaymal Zahiid, Malay Mail

"Migrant rights group chides govt for defending Top Glove, says sending wrong signals", 18 December 2018

A rights group said today the government’s defence of Top Glove... the company accused of forced labour and debt bondage, could easily be misread as condoning the abuse of migrant workers.

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition said Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran’s dismissal of the allegations was shocking... “The cursory dismissal of such serious allegations of forced labour by the government does not bode well for the many millions of migrant workers in the country,” the coalition representative Glorene Das told a press conference... “It doesn’t spell hope for any serious improvement in the working and living conditions of migrant workers in the country,” she added...

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14 December 2018

Malaysia: Top Glove denies allegations of labour abuses

Author: Gigi Chua,

"Top Glove denies forced labour allegations", 14 December 2018

Top Glove... has denied the allegations made by UK newspaper The Guardian regarding forced labour, excessive overtime, debt bondage and passport confiscation.  

“There is absolutely no forced labour at Top Glove. As regards to keeping strictly to the Labour Law of Malaysia, we have now implemented strict measures to ensure that the overtime undertaken by our workers does not exceed the maximum limit permitted under the law,” the group said in a statement today...

...The Guardian reported that Top Glove had declined to respond directly when asked to comment on the allegations the newspaper gathered from 16 workers from the factories. In response, the group clarified: “Top Glove was not contacted by the Guardian and given the opportunity to comment on the allegations in the article. We would also appreciate if you could clarify when and how the interview of the 16 workers took place.”

...The group also denied the report’s allegation where 16 workers had their passports involuntarily held by the company and were unable to get them back on request. “Top Glove has never confiscated our migrant workers’ passports. In the interest of safeguarding these important documents, their passports are kept in a Passport Safekeeping Room with individual lockers, to which workers have free access anytime...

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10 December 2018

Malaysia: Govt. denies labour abuses at glove manufacturing factories

Author: Petaling Jaya, The Star/Asia News Network

"Malaysia's minister says not true Top Glove overworks its foreign workers", 10 December 2018

Malaysia's Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said it was untrue that the world's top glove maker, Top Glove Corporation Berhad, has overworked its employees.

He said that he and his enforcement officers had spoken to the workers at the glove-manufacturing factories on the matter.

"They (Top Glove) have a mechanism of taking care of the workers, and based on my ministry's knowledge, they work within the framework of the law," he said, adding that the glove producer had not done anything wrong... "The management of Top Glove has given its commitment to overcome the problem but I can assure that no foreign workers were forced to work overtime in the factories as reported," he said... at a news conference after visiting Top Glove's Factory 25 in Klang, Selangor on Monday (Dec 10)...

Mr Kulasegaran said his enforcement officers have visited 22 of 35 Top Glove factories to check on working conditions, from last Friday (Dec 7).

"I'm not too sure how these allegations came about," he said, adding that people should not be "spreading fake news" about the company...


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10 December 2018

Malaysia: Rights groups call for investigation into alleged abuses at glove manufacturers

Author: Reuters

"Probe work practices at Top Glove, urges labour rights group", 8 December 2018

Malaysian labour rights groups have called for an investigation into the world’s largest glovemaker, Top Glove, after cases were uncovered of migrant workers toiling for long hours and working illegal overtime to pay off huge debts...

The company, which produces one out of every four pairs of rubber gloves used in the world, said it would investigate and cut ties with unethical recruitment agents. It said this year, it had introduced changes to ensure workers get adequate rest.

Yet a coalition of rights groups is demanding swift action from the government into the findings and have urged Top Glove to commit to further investigate their working conditions.

“The abuses within Top Glove are just a sad part of a much wider story,” said the Right to Redress Coalition, an alliance of 11 Malaysian migrant rights and anti-trafficking groups...



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10 December 2018

Top Glove chairman says “only a small number” of workers subject to excessive overtime

Author: Thomson Reuters Foundation

"Top Glove vows action after labour rights expose", 10 December 2018

Malaysian company Top Glove Corp. Bhd, the world’s top glovemaker, said today it would “continue to improve” its labour standards after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose found some migrants working illegal overtime to pay off debts...

Speaking at a press conference in Malaysia, Top Glove’s executive chairman and founder Lim Wee Chai said “only a small number” of workers had done excessive overtime.

“We do our part, we do it correctly, we have no pressure, we still can sleep very well tonight,” he told reporters at a Top Glove factory in Klang, an industrial area outside Kuala Lumpur. "We will continue to do good, if there is any feedback, anything no good, we will continue to improve.”...

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9 December 2018

Australia: Ansell says it will never tolerate forced labour as Malaysian supplier faces accusations of abusing workers' rights

Author: Nassim Khadem, ABC News

"Top Glove, Malaysian rubber gloves supplier to Ansell, accused of abusing workers' rights", 8 December 2018

Ansell...cannot give assurances that working conditions at its Malaysian suppliers, including Top Glove, WRP and Kossan, currently meet...standards.

...The latest worker complaints against Top Glove include: high recruitment fees that result in workers clocking excessive overtime to pay off debts; passports being locked up...crowded living conditions and isolation and restriction of movement.

...Ansell said it...will never knowingly tolerate child, forced or involuntary labour of any kind, under any circumstances....

...Top Glove...[said]..."We also need the government of the labour source country to take the necessary action on unscrupulous agents and to implement a [reasonable] recruitment fee...."

...Top Glove admits workers are working overtime "...some workers have willingly worked overtime, in order to earn more...".

...Top Glove said the deductions for meals and accommodation are allowed and not more than 20 per cent of the worker's salary, which is in accordance with the law.

...Top Glove does keep passports in a locker, but that this is for "safekeeping", and upon employee consent.

...ABC News has seen images of crowded hostel accommodation...Top Glove said the accommodation includes additional facilities for workers such as a mini market and prayer room, and that it organises regular recreational activities for its workers so they have a work-life balance.

...The worker interviewed said...their movement is restricted.

..."Top Glove is authorised to set up its own auxiliary police, who help look after the safety of our office staff and workers, as well as Top Glove's properties," the company's statement said.


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