Malaysia: Medical & rubber glove manufacturers accused of subjecting migrant workers to forced labour & withholding wages

Malaysian glove manufacturers - including WRP and Top Glove who supply medical and rubber gloves globally - have been accused of mistreating workers, allegedly subjecting migrant workers to forced labour, forced overtime, debt bondage, withheld wages and passport confiscation.

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Article
30 March 2020

Malaysia: Rubber glove maker linked to forced labour allegations sees rise in orders from Europe & US as result of COVID-19 outbreak

Author: Liz Lee, Reuters

"World's largest glove maker sees shortage as coronavirus fight spikes", 29 March 2020

Malaysia’s Top Glove Corporation Bhd (TPGC.KL), which makes one in every five gloves globally, expects a product shortage as demand from Europe and the United States spikes because of the widening coronavirus outbreak is exceeding its capacity...

Lim said orders received in the past few weeks, mainly from Europe and the United States, were almost double the company’s production capacity. Top Glove can produce 200 million natural and synthetic rubber gloves a day...

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Article
26 March 2020

USA lifts ban on Malaysian medical glovemaker amid COVID-19 demand; activist warns forced labour likely 'still rife'

Author: Predeep Nambiar, Free Malaysia Today

"Forced labour likely still rife at glove companies, says activist", 25 March 2020

An international... activist today said medical glove makers in Malaysia and Thailand continue to run at a high risk of using forced labour to run their factories.

Migrant worker activist Andy Hall said while there has been improvement at these glove factories over the past year, international monitors such as the International Labour Organisation still indicate that there could be elements of forced labour.

He was responding to news of the lifting of sanctions by the United States against a Malaysian medical glove maker with a history of forced labour use earlier today...

He said despite the glove-making companies' commitment to getting rid of this recruitment fee since 2019, most of the migrant workers are "paying too much" to land jobs in glove factories...

[He said:] 'These workers, some of the invisible heroes of modern times in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic... shouldn't have to pay for this essential life-saving work. And buyers and governments must commit to paying back all the costs of their work,"... [T]he authorities must make sure workers... are provided with attendance and risk bonuses, additional food and housing benefits. "Not to mention protective equipment and procedures to ensure they and their families do not fall victim to the Covid-19, too."...

 

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Article
13 January 2020

Malaysia: Glove manufacturer WRP Asia receives emergency funds to pay wages owed to migrant workers, following liquidation

Author: Geraldine Tong, Malaysiakini

"Glovemaker WRP get emergency funds to pay workers", 2 January 2020

An emergency shareholders injection of RM3.25 million was today channelled to the liquidators of glovemaker WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd to enable the beleaguered company to pay its workers.

The firm... issued an internal memo to announce a temporary suspension of operations.

The emergency cash by shareholders was pumped by private equity fund TAEL Partners, WRP's board of directors said...The firm's board has also drawn up a plan to revive the firm and offered a "turnaround team" to assist the interim liquidators...

This comes three months after WRP was banned by the US Customs and Border Protection... agency on suspicion of using forced labour.

Last January, nearly 2,000 of WRP's Nepali migrant workers held a three-day strike over months of unpaid wages...

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Article
22 November 2019

Malaysia: Major rubber glove exporters linked to forced labour allegations; Includes company comments

Author: Peter Bengsten, The Diplomat

"Clean Gloves, Dirty Practices: Debt Bondage in Malaysia's Rubber Glove Industry", 22 November 2019

On October 1... [the USA] 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... Malaysia['s]... glove industry is the world’s biggest, supplying over half of the world’s annual demand of 300 billion rubber gloves... 

At YTY Industries... [workers] said they have worked over two years with no free access to their passports. YTY Group published an extensive statement online, saying that it does “not hold the passports of any foreign workers other than for routine processing matters.” YTY said “we absorb 100% of any recruitment fees in Malaysia...” However, all the interviewees said they had not been reimbursed for recruitment costs. YTY also said it was tightening recruitment procedures...

Workers from Supermax and Hartalega NGC, two major glove exporters, mentioned fees up to $4,800 for agents and said it takes years to pay off money lenders’ high-rate loans...

Workers from Supermax facilities... said that passport retention for years was the norm until October, when Supermax started returning passports to workers. They work 12 hours per day, for up to 30 days without a rest day, and have to apply if they want more than one monthly off day, or else face wage deductions...

Supermax said in a statement that “All of the Supermax Group’s manufacturing facilities operate strictly in accordance with Malaysian Labor Law.”...

Hartalega said... it previously had a centralized facility for passport lockers where workers had “full and free access to their passports 24/7 without any restriction. In recent months... all workers keep their own passports at their personal lockable cabinets in their respective dorms.”...

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Article
13 October 2019

Australia urged to follow US, ban shipments of rubber gloves over forced labour concerns

Author: Nassim Khadem, ABC

14 October 2019

Australia is being urged to follow the Trump administration's lead in blocking shipments of rubber gloves sold by manufacturer Ansell, after one of its suppliers, WRP Asia Pacific, had its products detained by US customs over allegations of forced labour.

[...]

An Ansell spokesman said the company was informed that WRP was issued a ban by the US based on concerns WRP's products are produced, in whole or in part, using forced labour.

"Ansell takes the labour practices of these third-party suppliers seriously, and any allegations of forced labour among the company's suppliers are of the highest concern," the spokesman told ABC News.

He said Ansell requires that all suppliers comply with its Supplier Code of Conduct, which prohibits suppliers from using child, forced or involuntary labour of any kind.

[...]

"However, due to various reasons, including WRP's limited progress in correcting audit issues, Ansell has been progressively reducing its purchases from WRP," he said.

[...]

He said the company would continue to audit outsourced manufacturers in its supply chain to ensure that the rights and safety of workers is protected.

In March Ansell chairman Glenn Barnes said the company was investigating whether its other main supplier, Top Glove, was abusing worker rights and would dump any supplier it found was exploiting workers.

It is due to report on the results of that review at its annual general meeting in November, but Ansell's spokesman told ABC News that in relation to Top Glove, Ansell was "pleased that measurable progress is being made".

But migrant workers' rights researcher and human rights activist Andy Hall said...Ansell should not have severed ties with WRP, but instead used its influence to ensure compliance with Australia's modern slavery laws and global guidelines that aim to protect worker rights.

[...]

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Article
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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Article
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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Item
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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Article
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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Article
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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