Malaysia: Workers report poor working conditions & low wages at Karex factories

A report alleged that workers in Karex factories were "liviing in cramped and undignified conditions" and in "damp and unhygienic dormitories.

Karex released a statement saying that it "does no believe that forced labour or modern slavery is currently occuring at our factories". Further, it earlier committed that it would hire "an independent firm specialising in ethical trade, human rights, labour standards” to carry out a “full social analysis”.

The same report identified some of Karex's major buyers and these entities have released statements, which were included in the report. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to USAID to also get their response-- this is linked below.

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Article
16 October 2019

USAID response to allegations against Karex

Author: USAID

Note: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to USAID as regards the allegations against Karex. Its response is found below.

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We want to assure you that USAID takes these allegations very seriously and referred the information to the Office of Inspector General.  

USAID directed the implementing partner to prepare a risk mitigation plan to ensure that alternate suppliers and products are available and registered to support continuity of supply to USAID programs and partners. As of February 2019, no new orders have been placed with Karex.  

USAID requires all implementing partners to comply with the U.S. Government's Federal Acquisition Regulation, “Combating Trafficking in Persons.”  Further procurement through USAID implementing partners may be considered after Karex demonstrates compliance with federal acquisition regulations via independent third-party validation.

USAID is committed to ending human trafficking.  Since 2001, USAID has supported Counter-Trafficking in Persons programs in over 71 countries.

Article
24 January 2019

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

Author: Nicola Smith, The Telegraph

"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