After almost 2,500 of its employees tested positive for Cvoid-19, more than half of its factories will now be shut down by the largest maker of latex gloves in the world.
Authorities said that in order to bring the pandemic spread under control, 28 plants of Malaysia’s Top Glove will be closed down in phases. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has been experiencing an increase in demand for its personal protective gear.
However, the working conditions of the low-paid migrant workers that the company relies upon have been a cause of concern.
In the areas where Top Glove factories and dormitories are located, a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases were reported by Malaysia’s health ministry on Monday. It said that out of the almost 5,800 workers of the company who have so far been screened, 2,453 employees have tested positive for Covid-19.
There are 41 factories of Top Glove in Malaysia and a large proportion of its workers are from Nepal and they live in crowded dormitory complexes provided by the company.
“All those who tested positive have been hospitalised and their close contacts have been quarantined to avoid infecting other workers,” Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah told the news agency Reuters.
While the company has not made clear when the closure of the factories will happen, it is understood that the closure will be done in stages.
While the record profits that Top Glove has managed to record this year has brought the global spotlight on it, but has also been scrutinised for allegations of exploitative labour practices especially at its factories.
After concerns were raised by forced labour, import of gloves from two of the company’s subsidiaries was banned by the United States in July.
Citing the requirement for overseas migrant workers to pay the high recruitment fees kin order to secure employment in the rubber glove industry which often results in debt bondage the same issue was raised by the US Department of Labour in a recent report.
The very difficult working conditions at Top Glove factories were explained by the company’s workers in September to the Los Angeles Times. The workers citied the 72-hour work weeks, the cramped living conditions and low wages to be prevalent as working conditions in the company.
After recommendations from an independent consultant, remediation payments to compensate workers for recruitment fees were raised by the company, Top Glove said a few weeks later.
A number of companies in Malaysia that rely heavily on a migrant workforce were “failing to meet the basic needs of their workers”, said Glorene Das, executive director of Tenaganita, a Kuala Lumpur-based NGO that focuses on labour rights.
“These workers are vulnerable because they live and work in congested shared quarters and do work that does not make it possible to practice strict social distancing,” she said.
“During these times employers have a huge responsibility towards them but we are hearing of cases where they are not providing workers with sufficient food or even withholding their wages,” she added.
(Adapted from BBC.com)