KUALA LUMPUR – Rubber gloves manufactured in Malaysia are among six items the US Department of Labour (DOL) has added to a list of goods produced by forced labour this year, the department said in a report.
For Malaysia, the department had already listed electronics and garments as goods produced by forced labour, and palm oil as produced by child labour and forced labour.
“There are reports that adults are forced to produce rubber gloves in Malaysia. Forced labour predominantly occurs among migrant labourers from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Nepal working in more than 100 rubber glove factories throughout Malaysia,” the department said in the report, dated September.
The DOL said reports showed that an estimated 42,500 migrant workers were employed in the rubber glove industry, and were frequently subjected to high recruitment fees to secure employment that often kept them in debt bondage.
The workers were also forced to work longer hours than allowed under Malaysian law, and in factories where temperatures could reach dangerous levels, the department said.
The president of the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (Margma), Mr Supramaniam Shanmugam, said in a statement that the report was retrospective and the industry abided by Malaysian laws and regulations, and by standards imposed by importing countries.
He said several major glove manufacturers had since June announced commitments of more than RM250 million (S$82 million) to remediate recruitment fees foreign workers paid to agents in their home countries that their Malaysian employers were unaware of.
“Margma members have reported that they are practising immediate repatriation if any foreign worker poses debt-bondage risk or is being dishonest in claiming no debt-bondage during his entrance interviews,” he said, adding that services of the recruitment agent responsible will be terminated in tandem.
The world’s largest glove maker, Malaysia’s Top Glove Corp, whose shipments to the United States were banned by the US Customs and Border Protection in July over allegations of forced labour, said this month it had raised its remediation payments to RM136 million.
Malaysia’s human resources ministry cleared Top Glove of force labour practices after a raid on one of its factories in July.
Other issues the DOL reported were a threat of penalties, including withholding of wages and identification documents, and restricted movement.