The global demand for disposable gloves due to COVID-19 is putting pressure on glove manufacturers to produce at absolute capacity. Not only is this causing some manufacturers to cut costs and quality standards and sell reject quality gloves, it is also contributing to new allegations of labour abuse and exploitation of workers at glove factories.
The world's largest manufacturer of single-use gloves, Top Glove, is closing half of its 41 Malaysian factories, following positive coronavirus tests in almost 2,500 employees. The positive Covid-19 tests have been attributed to poor working conditions and crowded dormitory facilities that do not comply with local regulations.
With Top Glove reporting its annual glove production capacity had reached 90 billion pieces as of October 2020, this closure of factories will contribute to already volatile supply chain issues as demand for single-use gloves due to Covid-19 continues to rise. Given labour abuse in disposable glove manufacturing is not new, worker exploitation is unlikely to be resolved quickly.
Previous labor abuse and exploitation
Labour abuse and exploitation of workers in disposable glove factories has been highlighted for many years.
- In July this year, the US banned the import of gloves from two subsidiaries of Malaysia's Top Glove because of forced labour concerns.
- In 2018, Top Glove vowed to clean up its labor supply chain and workplace practices after exploitation of migrant workers in their Malaysian factories was uncovered.
- Last year Malaysian glove manufacturer, WRP Asia Pacific, was banned from exporting disposable gloves to the US because of the use of forced labour.
- In 2015, the British Medical Association (BMA) Medical Fair and Ethical Trade group convened to tackle labour rights abuse in the medical (disposable) gloves manufacturing industry. Their report "In Good Hands. Tackling labor rights concerns in the manufacture of medical gloves" highlights numerous labor rights abuse reports of Top Glove and other manufacturers. The BMA paper also reported 80% of Top Glove’s production is for other global brands, including glove supplier Ansell. As reported by ABC News, unions and labor rights experts have called on Ansell to step up efforts to protect workers at Top Glove factories in Malaysia that supply gloves to the company.
The mission of some glove manufacturers is “to generate above industry returns to our shareholders”. This focus on the lowest cost of production to satisfy shareholder and end user demands has an ongoing consequence of labour exploitation.
Managing your supply chain risks include glove procurement from a reputable supplier, and protecting your company’s reputation by sourcing from factories audited by third-parties to eliminate worker exploitation. Read more here about how to trust your supplier, and why Eagle Protect is excelling amid the demands of the pandemic.
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