Racing to reverse U.S. ban, Malaysia's Top Glove improves workers' housing

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's Top Glove Corp TPGC.KL is working rapidly to resolve this month issues that prompted a U.S. Customs import ban, including improving its migrant workers' living conditions, its managing director said on Tuesday.

Slideshow ( 5 images )

In engagements with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) last week, the world’s largest medical glove maker said the standard of workers’ accommodation was one of two issues highlighted.

CBP placed a detention order on imports from two subsidiaries of Top Glove last month, an action the authority takes on firms suspected of using forced labour.

“They wanted us to take care of the living quarters of the foreign workers,” Managing Director Lee Kim Meow told Reuters.

He said repair and upgrade work was taking place at accommodation the CBP had singled out and other migrant workers’ housing would be improved as required.

Lee said the company was also seeking to integrate technology to enable workers to raise issues affecting their living conditions as problems with workers’ quarters far from the head office had been overlooked.

The other issue CBP identified is referred to as remediation, or paying back workers fees they paid to employment agents to get their jobs.

Top Glove made its first remediation payment to migrant workers who joined before 2019 on Monday.

Lee said Top Glove will pay the estimated total of 53 million ringgit ($12.65 million) in remediation, covering around 10,000 foreign workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia, over 12 months.

Top Glove hires about 12,000 foreign workers in total.

Prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Top Glove has started producing face masks and also plans to manufacture medical gowns and cleaning products, such as sanitisers and washing liquids. It hopes to gain approvals to export its masks in two months, and start making medical gowns next year.

Lee said the company plans to be a “one-stop infection control centre”.

($1 = 4.1900 ringgit)

Reporting by Liz Lee; editing by Barbara Lewis