A worker inside a factory owned by Malaysian firm Top Glove, the world's largest glovemaker, in Klang, Malaysia, on Thursday. (Reuters Photo/ Beh Lih Yi)

Malaysia Vows Action Against World's Top Glovemaker Over Migrants' Illegal Overtime


DECEMBER 11, 2018

Klang, Malaysia. Malaysia said on Monday it would take action against Top Glove, the world's top glove maker, which admitted breaching labor laws after a Thomson Reuters Foundation expose found some migrants working illegal overtime to pay off debts.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation revealed on Thursday that migrant workers at the Malaysian company often work long hours to help clear debts to recruitment agents back home – and in some cases exceed the legal overtime limit.

Speaking at a press conference in Malaysia, Top Glove's executive chairman and founder Lim Wee Chai said "a small number" of workers had done excessive overtime and the company would "continue to improve" its labor standards.

"We do our part, we do it correctly, we have no pressure, we still can sleep very well tonight," he told reporters at a Top Glove factory in Klang, an industrial area outside Kuala Lumpur.

"We will continue to do good, if there is any feedback, anything no good, we will continue to improve."

He denied workers were forced into the overtime work. Top Glove has said earlier it introduced changes this year to give workers adequate rest.

"They got options, you cannot force them. Some workers said they don’t want to do overtime, that’s ok. But most of them come here to make a living, so they want overtime," said Lim.

Workers at the factory often work a 12-hour shift and clock 90 to 120 hours of overtime a month, according to documents seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Under Malaysian laws, workers should be given a rest day each week and work no more than 104 hours of overtime a month.

Malaysia's Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said action will be taken against Top Glove for breaching labor laws on overtime hours.

"[The company] themselves admitted [to this] so we will take the necessary action," Kulasegaran told reporters, after visiting a Top Glove factory on Monday.

"We will strictly enforce [the labor law] and we will prevent them in bringing in foreign workers if they breach this regulation," he said, adding that an investigation is still ongoing.

Malaysia's labor ministry said Top Glove could face a fine of up to 10,000 Malaysian ringgit ($2,400) if found guilty of breaching labor laws on excessive overtime.

Malaysia's new government came to power in May, ousting a corruption-mired coalition, and has vowed to improve conditions for migrant workers.

Britain's health ministry said it would investigate standards at Top Glove – which makes rubber gloves sold to Britain's National Health Service (NHS) – after being presented with the Thomson Reuters Foundation's findings.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation discovered that at least one Top Glove product is supplied to the NHS via a British firm, raising doubts about Britain's capacity to ensure its medical supply chain is free of labor abuses and unethical practices.

Lim said Top Glove, which has 40 factories with 35 in Malaysia, had not received any inquiries or complaint from the British authorities.

Top Glove's share price fell about 5.9 percent on Monday to 5.55 Malaysian ringgit ($1.33).

"The share price ... is temporary, up or down is temporary," Lim said.

The company, which produces one in every four pairs of rubber gloves used globally, said last week it would cut ties with unethical recruitment agents, and that action had been taken over the issue of excessive overtime.

Top Glove, a major global supplier of medical and rubber gloves to 195 countries including Britain and the United States, employs over 11,000 migrant workers, from countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India.

The minister denied a media report that linked Top Glove to unlawful wage deductions and forced labor.

He said checks had found that the deductions – including for food and workers' insurance – had been made in accordance with the law.

The labor ministry also said workers had access to lockers in which their passports were kept, denying they had been confiscated.

Malaysia has become the world's glove manufacturing capital, producing three out of every five pairs used in the world, according to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association.