US Customs accuses Malaysian glove maker of forced labour

Warns that it will seize disposable gloves made by Top Glove that arrive at US ports

US Customs accuses Malaysian glove maker of forced labour
A worker tests gloves at one of the company's factories in Malaysia. File photo by Reuters.

(AFP) US Customs and Border Protection Department said on Monday it has found forced labour at factories run by Top Glove in Malaysia, so it has ordered officials at US ports to seize disposable gloves made by the company.

The Department posted a statement overnight saying it has "sufficient information to believe that Top Glove uses forced labour in the production of disposable gloves".

Its finding against the world's largest medical glove maker following an order issued in July last year that barred imports from two of Top Glove's subsidiaries on suspicion of labour abuses.

So that ban now extends "to all disposable gloves originating in Top Glove factories in Malaysia," it said.

Top Glove shares fell nearly 5% in early morning trade on Tuesday (March 30) after news of the decision, which comes as no surprise given previous reports of abuses among companies making gloves in the Southeast Asian nation.

Malaysia has a very mixed record on its treatment of migrant workers and there have been large coronavirus outbreaks at crammed boarding houses where workers from South Asia reside when not doing long hours making gloves.

Top Glove told Reuters its US counsels were liaising with representatives from the Customs Office to learn more about the finding.

The Department said its finding does not affect 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 US imports of disposable gloves," John Leonard, 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.

With reporting by Reuters

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Malaysia Top Glove Forced labour US Customs Disposable gloves Seizure order US ports Covid-19