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
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
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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Article
14 December 2018

Malaysia: Top Glove denies allegations of labour abuses

Author: Gigi Chua, theedgemarkets.com

"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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Article
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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Article
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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