Supplier acts after medical gloves linked to forced labour

14 September 2020

New Zealand’s largest medical and personal protective equipment (PPE) supplier is reported to have stopped importing a brand of disposable gloves after they were linked to forced labour.

Ebos confirmed it had stopped all imports of gloves made by Malaysian supplier Top Glove, according to The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC), an international watchdog.

This came after website Newsroom accused Top Glove, the world’s largest producer of rubber gloves, of using forced migrant labour.

The BHRRC contacted Ebos and another PPE importer, Protec Solutions, and asked them to investigate their supply chains.

Ebos purchased gloves manufactured by Top Glove, which were supplied by Australian glove and protective equipment company Ansell.

The BHRRC said it received a response from Ebos that said: “We have investigated the matter regarding the Ansell MicroThin Nitrile glove manufactured by Top Glove.

“Following our discussions with Ansell can confirm this product is discontinued and will no longer be ordered by Ebos Healthcare, New Zealand. Further, Ebos Healthcare has advised its customers that this product line is now discontinued.”

Newsroom said Amy Sinclair, regional representative for the BHRRC, had contacted the site to confirm it had not received a reply from Protec.

“Following (the) piece we engaged directly with both Protec Solutions and Ebos, drawing their attention to allegations of linkage to slave-like conditions in Top Glove’s Malaysian factories and inviting a response,” said Sinclair.

“We did not receive a response from Protec, but Ebos took action.”

Sinclair said pressure on Top Glove and other Malaysian glove suppliers accused of forced labour and poor conditions was likely to improve conditions for the companies’ workforces.

Demand for disposable gloves has surged during the coronavirus pandemic and Malaysia-based manufacturers such as Top Glove have benefited hugely from the rising demand.

However in July the US Customs and Border Protection agency banned Top Glove subsidiary TG Medical from distributing in the US after finding “reasonable evidence” the company was using forced labour.

In 2018 the UK government said it was investigating standards at Top Glove following allegations staff were working illegal overtime.

In 2016 the British Medical Association highlighted worker abuse at factories making medical gloves in Thailand and Malaysia, including Top Glove.

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