Malaysian authorities on Tuesday said they would file charges against Top Glove after it opened numerous investigations of poor conditions at dormitories owned by the world’s largest medical glove maker.
The Ministry of Human Resources said it determined the dorms had failed to meet minimum standards for worker housing and amenities after raids at Top Glove facilities in five states last week.
The raid by the Labour Department was prompted by last month’s COVID-19 outbreak at a Top Glove factory in an industrial area near the capital Kuala Lumpur.
The Labour Department said it had investigated six Top Glove’s companies and had recommended filing charges after opening 19 probes. It did not say how many charges would be filed.
The investigation comes a little more than four months after the United States blocked imports of rubber gloves made by Top Glove, citing “reasonable evidence” of forced labour at its factories.
Top Glove said it was working to improve accommodation by Dec. 31, the end of a grace period for employers to meet new government rules on accommodation standards. The rules have been in place since Sept. 01.
Asri Ab Rahman, director-general of the Department of Labour Peninsular Malaysia, told reporters that its investigations had showed some accommodation was cramped, poorly ventilated and lacked rest and kitchen areas.
“There is concern at the ministry and pressure on the department to ensure that worker accommodations provided do not become the source of spreading diseases,” he said, adding that Malaysia wanted to avoid accusations it used “forced labour”.
In October, the United States added rubber gloves produced in Malaysia to a list of products produced by forced labour. Top Glove said shortly afterwards that it was working to address those U.S. concerns.
Top Glove officials said they would cooperate with the authorities.
“Top Glove wishes to clarify that efforts to source for more accommodation and to improve existing worker accommodations are on-going, in view of the large number of workers we employ,” the company said in a statement.
“We expect to complete the exercise of improving workers’ accommodation around Dec. 31, 2020,” the statement said.
Malaysia shut some of Top Glove’s factories in stages last week to facilitate screening and quarantining of employees due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A total of 3,406 Top Glove workers had tested positive for the virus by Monday.
Tighter curbs on movement, in place since Nov. 14 in the areas where the factories and hostels are located, have been extended to Dec. 14. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)