Malaysia’s Top Glove uses forced labour, US Customs says

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The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Monday it has found forced labour practices in Top Glove Corp production of disposable gloves and directed its ports to seize goods from the manufacturer.

In a statement, the CBP said it has sufficient information to determine labour abuses by the Malaysian company, the world’s largest medical glove maker.

In July last year, the CBP issued an order that barred imports from two of Top Glove’s subsidiaries on suspicion of labour abuses, while the current ban, now extends “to all disposable gloves originating in Top Glove factories in Malaysia”.

Top Glove said in a bourse filing that its U.S. counsels are liaising with representatives from the CBP to obtain more clarity and information on the matter as its shares fell nearly 5% at one point in Tuesday trading.

“The company, at this juncture, is unable to ascertain the … financial and operational impacts arising from the above,” it said.

CBP said its finding does not impact the vast majority of disposable gloves imported into the United States which are critical during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“CBP has taken steps to ensure that this targeted enforcement action against Top Glove will not have a significant impact on total U.S. imports of disposable gloves,” John Leonard, CBP Acting Executive Assistant Commissioner for Trade said in the statement.

Top Glove has said in the past months that it has taken extensive rectification actions to improve its labour practices.

Ethical trade consultancy Impactt, appointed by Top Glove to assess its trade and labour practices, reported earlier this month that as at January, it “no longer” found indicators of systemic forced labour at the manufacturer.

Independent migrant worker rights specialist Andy Hall said the CBP decision should be a “wake-up call” to labour-intensive industries, the government and customers.

“Top Glove’s investors now urgently need to be held to account also as it is the company’s owners and investors who have profited most handsomely from this failure to combat forced labour,” he said. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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