NHS rubber gloves made in Malaysian factories accused of forced labour

The NHS is using medical gloves made in Malaysian factories where migrants are allegedly subjected to forced labour, forced overtime, debt bondage, withheld wages and passport confiscation.

A Guardian investigation has revealed that at least two companies supplying rubber gloves to the – Top Glove and WRP – are allegedly subjecting thousands of migrant workers from Nepal and Bangladesh to exploitative working conditions.

Top Glove – the largest rubber glove manufacturer in the world and one of the biggest employers in Malaysia, with 40 factories – and fellow manufacturer WRP both produce gloves for multiple brands supplying NHS Supply Chain, the organisation which has a 40% market share of medical goods purchased by NHS hospitals and clinics in the UK.

The Guardian interviewed 16 Top Glove workers and three from WRP.

The Top Glove workers – eight from Nepal and eight from Bangladesh – alleged that their factory was “mental torture” where they had to work seven days a week, at least 12 hours a day, with only one day off a month. Their shirts were each branded with the Top Glove logo: “Be honest and no cheating.”

All 16 alleged they had their passports involuntarily held by the company and were unable to get them back on request, while reportedly “unsafe” factory conditions at Top Glove meant limbs had been lost in accidents.

Although Top Glove declined to respond directly when asked for comment, it released a statement

in which it conceded that excessive daily overtime was a problem. “Lengthy working hours are our main concern and we continue to explore every possible way to address the issue of our workers’ excessive daily OT,” the company said, adding that it was working on increasing manpower and changing shift patterns to deal with the problem.

Top Glove denied the conditions in its factories were a violation of workers’ rights. “We assure you that the allegations are entirely unfounded and such allegations tarnish our good name,” it said, emphasising that it complied with “local labour law requirements” and had won a number of human resources awards.

 

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