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US will seize all Top Glove imports after finding ‘sufficient evidence’ of forced labor


The US Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP) has ordered port officials to seize all disposable gloves made by the world’s largest producer over allegations of forced labor.

In a statement Monday, the agency said a months-long investigation had found “sufficient information” that Top Glove, a Malaysian company, was using forced labor to produce disposable gloves.

The agency “will not tolerate foreign companies’ exploitation of vulnerable workers to sell cheap, unethically-made goods to American consumers,” Troy Miller, a senior CBP official, said in a statement.

A document published on the US government’s Federal Register said the agency had found evidence that certain disposable gloves have been “produced, or manufactured in Malaysia by Top Glove Corporation Bhd with the use of convict, forced or indentured labor.”

Top Glove told CNN Business it was reviewing the decision and had sought information from the CBP to “quickly resolve the matter.” The company said it had previously “taken all the necessary measures required by CBP to ensure all concerns are addressed.”

Top Glove and its rivals in Malaysia have benefited enormously from demand for gloves during the coronavirus pandemic. A CBP official said steps have been taken to ensure any seizures will not have a significant impact on total US imports of disposable gloves.

“We continue to work with our interagency partners to ensure that the personal protective equipment, medical devices and pharmaceuticals needed for the COVID-19 response are cleared for entry as expeditiously as possible while verifying that those goods are authorized and safe for use,” the official said in a statement.

The US government has been putting pressure on Top Glove for months.

Last July, the CBP barred products made by Top Glove and one of its subsidiaries, TG Medical, from being distributed in the country after finding “reasonable evidence” that the companies were using forced labor.

CBP said at the time that the evidence revealed alleged instances of “debt bondage, excessive overtime, retention of identification documents, and abusive working and living conditions.”

Top Glove said in August that it was making good progress with authorities to resolve the issues. The company also hired Impactt, an independent ethical trade consultant, to verify its labor practices.

Earlier this month, in a statement about its findings, Impactt said that as of January 2021, “the following forced labor indicators were no longer present among the Group’s direct employees: abuse of vulnerability, restriction of movement, excessive overtime and withholding of wages.”

Some 60% of the world’s disposable glove supply comes from Malaysia, according to the Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA). More than a third are exported to the United States, which for months has led the world in coronavirus cases and deaths.

This extra demand for gloves has put a spotlight on how these Malaysian companies treat their workers, particularly foreign staff recruited from neighboring countries.

Labor rights activist Andy Hall said CBP’s decision Monday should be “a wake-up call” to the rest of Malaysia’s rubber gloves industry because “much more needs to be done to combat the systemic forced labor of foreign workers that remains endemic in factories across Malaysia.”

Top Glove shares fell nearly 5% in a second day of losses on Tuesday.

— Julie Zaugg and Hilary Whiteman contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: Money

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