KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 18): Top Glove Corp Bhd said it has resolved issues highlighted by the US Department of Labour (DOL) in a report that listed rubber gloves among products manufactured through child or forced labour.
In a statement, the world’s biggest glovemaker reiterated steps it had taken to improve work conditions, which it has submitted to the US Customs and Border Protection to secure an “expeditious resolution and revocation” of the ban on exporting its products to the country.
The measures include the implementation of a zero-cost recruitment policy since January 2019, whereby the company bore all recruitment fees for its foreign workers.
“Top Glove has blacklisted unethical recruitment agents and continues to do so through a robust due diligence procedure, and all business dealings with such recruitment agents will be terminated with immediate effect. Top Glove too continues to educate its workers not to pay recruitment fees to third parties,” it said.
It also said it has started to make remediation payments to its foreign workers over their recruitment fees on a monthly basis, starting August, and expects to conclude payment in July 2021.
In total, it will pay RM136 million as per the recommendation of an independent consultant.
“Top Glove has duly submitted the necessary information to the US CBP and is following up closely with them, with a view to an expeditious resolution of the matter and revocation of the WRO [withhold release order].
“In the meantime, our gloves will be routed to other countries across the globe to cater to the urgent and overwhelming demand for this highly essential personal protective item,” it said.
Top Glove also said it paid its workers a basic wage of RM1,200 monthly in a “consistent and timely manner” as per Malaysian labour law.
“Nevertheless, the general take-home pay of its workers is more than RM1,600 per month factoring in overtime, which is always performed within the allowable rest-day matrix,” it said, adding it made an unspecified amount of ex-gratia payment to its workers to thank them for their contribution during the pandemic.
The glovemaker also said it does not allow its workers to perform excessive overtime, as per Malaysian labour laws that stipulates a maximum of 104 hours overtime per month and one rest day per week.
“Overtime is solely performed on a voluntary basis and workers are only allowed to perform overtime, if they have not exceeded the daily maximum allowable working hours,” it added.
Top Glove also claimed it is one of the few manufacturing companies that has a zero-harm and safety health emergency preparedness programme, as well as a workers’ health protection programme.
To recap, the US DOL had released ‘2020 List of Goods Produced by Child Labour or Forced Labour’ that included rubber gloves produced in Malaysia, citing reports that said they were produced by forced labour.
The department did not specifically name Top Glove as one of the companies involved.
“Forced labour predominately occurs among migrant labourers from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, and Nepal working in 100 rubber glove factories throughout Malaysia,” it said, adding that reports indicate around 42,500 migrant workers are employed in these factories.
“Workers are frequently subject to high recruitment fees to secure employment that often keeps them in debt bondage; forced to work overtime in excess of the time allowed by Malaysian law; and work in factories where temperatures can reach dangerous levels.
“Additionally, labourers work under the threat of penalties, which include the withholding of wages, restricted movement and the withholding of their identification documents,” it said.