US to seize Top Glove products over labour abuses

Worker in Top Glove factory

US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has ordered the seizure of disposable gloves made by Malaysia’s Top Glove.

The order said CBP had sufficient information to believe that Top Glove uses forced labour in the production of disposable gloves. Top Glove is the world’s largest producer of latex gloves, and exports to 195 countries. The company has said it has taken extensive actions to improve its labour practices.

“CBP will not tolerate foreign companies’ exploitation of vulnerable workers to sell cheap, unethically-made goods to American consumers,” said Troy Miller from the CBP. The US had already banned products from two of Top Glove’s subsidiaries in July, but the new ban extends to all disposable gloves from Top Glove factories in Malaysia. In its July finding, CPD accused Top Glove of debt bondage, excessive overtime and abusive working and living conditions.

Nevertheless, HR Asia recently named the company one of the best companies to work for in Asia in 2020. CBP said it had taken steps to ensure the ban would not have a significant impact on total US imports of disposable gloves, which are critical to efforts to contain Covid-19. Top Glove has 21,000 employees and makes 96 billion gloves each year. The company has factories in Thailand, China and Vietnam, but 41 of its 47 factories are in Malaysia.

Although Top Glove makes person protective equipment, its was forced to shut more than half of its 28 factories in November after almost 2,500 employees tested positive for coronavirus. All have since reopened, with additional safety measures in place. Top Glove shares fell 5% on the news of the US ban. The company’s shares surged in late January as retail investors in Asia drew inspiration from the GameStop trading frenzy.

A Reddit forum called BursaBets was set up, describing itself as the “Malaysian version” of Wallstreetbets, the Reddit forum that helped fuel the GameStop craze. Unlike many of the US companies which saw a surge of interest from retail investors, Top Glove is a profitable company. The group had its strongest ever sales, with revenue of $1.3bn in its most recent quarterly results. The company has applied for an additional listing on Hong Kong’s stock exchange.

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