No evidence of forced labour at Top Glove, says minister

The US Customs and Border Protection has issued a detention order on imports from two Top Glove subsidiaries.

PETALING JAYA: Human Resources Minister M Saravanan today said task forces found no evidence of forced labour at Top Glove’s headquarters although it did not follow SOPs to contain the spread of Covid-19.

He said a raid was carried out at the plant in Meru, Klang, on July 13, just two days before the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a detention order on imports from two of the glove makers’ subsidiaries due to suspicions they were produced with forced labour.

Saravanan said the task forces meant to detect human trafficking and ensure compliance with measures set out under the recovery movement control order (RMCO) found that the world’s largest medical glove maker fell short of required standards in certain areas.

“Investigations found that the company had breached SOPs such as social distancing at the workplace and provided crowded accommodation (for foreign workers).

“This caused Top Glove to be fined by the health ministry and they were given a notice of compliance by the housing and local government ministry.

“However, no offences related to elements of forced labour were detected,” he said in a statement.

Saravanan said the CBP detention order and allegations of forced labour can affect the “credibility and image” of Malaysia internationally and also foreign investor confidence.

In a statement last week, Top Glove acknowledged the possibility that the detention order by the CBP on imports from two of its subsidiaries – Top Glove Sdn Bhd and TG Medical Sdn Bhd – was related to foreign labour issues which it said had already been resolved.

“There is a possibility that this (withhold release order) may be related to foreign labour issues which we have already resolved, save for one more issue regarding the retrospective payment of recruitment fees by our workers to agents prior to January 2019 without our knowledge,” it said.

“However, Top Glove has already been bearing all recruitment fees since January 2019 when our zero recruitment fee policy was implemented.”

Foreign workers are regularly forced to pay agents exorbitant recruitment fees to secure jobs in Malaysia, and the high monthly repayments to these agencies leave many workers trapped in a cycle of debt, and puts them at increased risk of forced labour.

The CBP detention order prompted Saravanan to meet with Top Glove and other industry players under the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association to seek clarification on the matter.

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