Malaysian firms facing US bans over forced labour summoned by ministry

Sime Darby Plantation is among the firms facing US import bans over suspected forced labour practices. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry said on Sunday (Jan 30) it would call in all companies facing United States import bans over suspected forced labour practices to discuss immediate action to address the allegations.

Malaysian factories, which include major suppliers of palm oil and medical gloves, have been under increased scrutiny over allegations of abuse of migrant workers, who make up a significant part of the country's manufacturing workforce.

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said on Friday it would bar imports from disposable glove maker YTY Group based on information indicating that the firm used forced labour.

This is the seventh such ban on a Malaysian company in two years.

The agency also determined that Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation uses forced labour in its operations and that the company's goods were subject to seizure.

Malaysian Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan said on Sunday he would meet with all firms facing import bans in the US, along with two glove makers - WRP Asia Pacific and Top Glove Corp - that had seen their bans lifted by the CBP.

"The approaches implemented by these two companies can be used as guidelines and improvements for other firms," Mr Saravanan said in a statement.

Mr Saravanan said he has also ordered an immediate inquiry into the allegations by the Ministry of Human Resources and Department of Labour, and warned of stern action against companies that fail to improve their practices.

The minister acknowledged that forced labour allegations against Malaysian firms have affected investors' confidence in the country.

Malaysia last year announced a National Action Plan on Forced Labour to eliminate abusive practices such as debt bondage, unhygienic dormitories for workers, and excessive overtime, by 2030.

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