UK probes Malaysian glove maker over labour violations

LONDON/KUALA LUMPUR • Britain is launching an investigation into standards at a firm that makes medical gloves used by its health service after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose found stocks from Malaysia could be tainted by the mistreatment of migrant workers at the world's biggest glove maker.

The Health Ministry said it would investigate standards at Top Glove Corp - which makes rubber gloves sold to Britain's National Health Service (NHS) - after the expose found some migrants working overtime illegally to pay off debts.

Top Glove last week vowed to do more to tackle excessive overtime after the report found some workers clocked more than the amount permitted by law, and to cut ties with agents charging migrants huge fees to get them jobs.

The expose flagged at least one Top Glove product as being supplied to the NHS via a British firm.

Labour experts, doctors and diplomats have voiced concerns to both the British and Malaysian governments about violations in Malaysia's rubber glove industry.

"In line with the government's policy and leadership on modern slavery, we take any allegations of this kind incredibly seriously," said a spokesman for Britain's health department.

  • 11,000

  • Number of migrant workers Top Glove employs.

She said the government is working with the NHS Supply Chain that supplies goods to the NHS, "to ensure that these issues are investigated as a matter of urgency".

Top Glove, which accounts for more than a quarter of all rubber gloves produced worldwide, employs at least 11,000 migrant workers, from countries including Nepal, Bangladesh and India.

Top Glove was not immediately available to comment. But its managing director, Mr Lee Kim Meow, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last Thursday it would want to stop dealing with any suppliers found to be unscrupulous.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2018, with the headline 'UK probes Malaysian glove maker over labour violations'. Print Edition | Subscribe