Malaysia: Top Glove denies migrant workers producing PPE are exposed to abusive labour practices & COVID-19 risk; Incl. responses from auditing firms

Screengrab from C4 investigation (via Channel 4)

In June 2020, a Channel 4 investigation exposed evidence of migrant worker exploitation – including low wages, excessive overtime, illegal deductions from workers’ salaries, extortionate recruitment fees, poor living conditions and lack of social distancing arrangements – at Top Glove factories in Malaysia. Top Glove is the world's largest manufacturer of medical gloves and has reported a 366% increase in quarterly profits because of PPE demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Top Glove has been previously linked to exploitation of migrant workers and allegations of forced labour, passport confiscations, illegal withholding of pay and restricted freedom of movement.

In a press release, Top Glove denies the allegations and refers to “positive outcomes of audits” ​conducted by SMETA and its "A rating" received by amfori BSCI, as evidence that its labour practices meet international standards. 

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Sedex (which owns the social audit methodology SMETA) and amfori BSCI to respond to the allegations and subsequent response by Top Glove. Sedex said it does not independently verify the content of SMETA audits which are conducted by third-party auditors. amfori said it has concerns over the A rating received by Top Glove factory GMP Medicare Sdn Bhd as well as the type of audit that was used, and cannot support the argument that amfori BSCI provides evidence that Top Glove's labour practices meet international requirements. Both responses are included below.

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Company response
29 June 2020

amfori BSCI response

Author: amfori BSCI

... Indeed we know that one of Top Glove’s factories - GMP Medicare Sdn Bhd - did receive an amfori BSCI A rating in December 2019. However, it is important to note we have some concerns about the rating of this factory as well as the type of audit that was used. 

Furthermore, GMP Medicare Sdn Bhd is just one of several Top Glove factories, and we cannot derive from this that this rating is representative of how we have rated Top Glove in 2019.

I think on the basis of these above points, we cannot support the argument that Top Glove make that amfori BSCI provides evidence that its labour practices meet international requirements.

As you are also aware auditing only provides a snapshot of the situation at any given time and it must be accompanied by improvement measures and advocacy to make a real difference. I hope this is analysis is clear. Look forward to continued engagement on this topic...

Download the full document here

Company response
29 June 2020

Sedex response

Author: Sedex

...Top Glove is a member of Sedex. As part of Sedex terms and conditions, we cannot disclose or discuss any information from Top Glove audits, and the data within these audits is owned by Top Glove...

SMETA... is a social audit methodology owned by Sedex, based on best practice ethical audit techniques and is used to identify noncompliance issues across labour practices, health and safety, the environment and business ethics. Businesses use SMETA to assess site working conditions, and third-party auditors are contracted to conduct SMETA audits of the sites. The audit is then uploaded onto the Sedex platform, and can be shared between the buyer and supplier, to offer visibility of working conditions on a site. While Sedex facilitates the sharing of ethical audit information on its shared platform, Sedex does not independently verify the content, or issue a pass or fail. Sedex encourages members through guidance to use outcomes of audits to improve business practices, working conditions and labour standards.

Download the full document here

Item
18 June 2020

Top Glove denies allegations of migrant worker exploitation revealed by Channel 4 investigation

Author: Top Glove

"TOP GLOVE SETS RECORD STRAIGHT ON ALLEGATIONS MADE IN VIDEO BY CHANNEL 4 NEWS, UK", 18 June 2020

Top Glove Corporation Bhd, the world’s largest manufacturer of gloves has today asserted that allegations contained in a video produced by Channel 4 News, UK which was aired on 16 June 2020 are highly inaccurate.

Top Glove confirms it is compliant with local labour laws and in addition, has also implemented stringent labour practices, environmental, health and safety measures for its workers across all factories...

“We are committed to adhering to internationally recognised standards in our social compliance practices and since January 2019 have attended to more than 100 international external audits at Top Glove’s factories. The positive outcomes of audits such as those conducted by SMETA and the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) reflect excellent progress in our social compliance... to meet stringent international requirements. In December 2019, our factory in Malaysia received an ‘A’ rating by Amfori following an international-level social audit in accordance with the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) standards”...

Top Glove wishes to clarify the following... Huge amount of salary deduction is inaccurate... Absolutely no excessive or forced overtime by workers... Social distancing is practised at Top Glove... Top Glove has Zero Tolerance for Unethical Intermediary Recruitment Agents and a Zero Cost Recruitment Policy in place... Workers have full custody of their passports... 

[The full press release is attached]

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Article
17 June 2020

Malaysia: Investigation reveals migrant workers producing PPE for NHS hospitals exposed to abusive labour practices & Covid-19 risk as employer Top Glove triples profits

Author: Channel 4 News Investigation Team

“Revealed: Shocking conditions in PPE factories supplying UK”, 16 June 2020

Staff at Top Glove factories in Malaysia … have provided disturbing evidence about working conditions…

  • Migrant workers paid £1.08 an hour for gruelling 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week
  • … [W]orkers clocking up 111 hours in overtime, in breach of Malaysian law…
  • [I]llegal deductions from workers’ salaries
  • Appalling conditions in hostels with up to 24 workers per room
  • ... [P]oor social distancing arrangements
  • Top Glove reported a 366% increase in quarterly profits…

The manufacturing giant has been a supplier of gloves to Polyco Healthline, a major contractor to the NHS Supply Chain, which provides PPE to our hospitals.

… [T]he UK government put pressure on the Malaysian Government to increase production of gloves amid chronic shortages in … NHS hospitals and care homes.

Migrant workers from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal are housed in cramped and squalid company-run hostels … [that were] potential breeding ground for … Covid-19…

Many workers have paid extortionate recruitment fees of up to 5,000 US dollars … leaving them in effective debt bondage…

Top Glove declined to address any of the allegations specifically but said the report was inaccurate…

Polyco Healthline ... made clear this order was not for the NHS…

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