NHS glove supplier linked to forced labour

22 October 2021

An NHS glove supplier has been banned from importing products into the US by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

An investigation by the CBP said it had “ample” evidence to support claims Supermax Corporation Berhad violated US trade laws. 

The CBP said it had identified 10 indicators of forced labour abuses throughout its investigation into the Malaysian rubber glove supplier.

The CBP has issued the company with a Withhold Release Order (WRO), which means the CBP will seize all products on entry at ports.

Between March and July 2020 the UK government awarded Supermax Healthcare Ltd, a Supermax subsidiary, a contract to supply surgical gloves to the NHS. It was also awarded a contract worth £366m to supply PPE.

Supply Management has approached the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

AnnMarie Highsmith, executive assistant commissioner of Office of Trade at the CBP, said: “Until Supermax and its subsidiaries can prove their manufacturing processes are free of forced labor, their goods are not welcome here.”

Supermax has become the second Malaysian rubber glove manufacturer to have its products banned from the US this year, after the world's largest latex glove maker Top Glove received a similar ban in July for human rights abuses. 

US secretary of homeland security Alejandro Mayorkas warned such products would be removed from US supply chains. 

Mayorkas said: “With this Withhold Release Order, the Biden-Harris administration continues to make clear that products made in whole or in part by forced labor will not be allowed into the United States. 

“[Department of Homeland Security] will continue to set an international standard for the elimination of the deplorable practice of forced labor. We will remove it from American supply chains.” 

Troy Miller, CBP acting commissioner, said: “This Withhold Release Order will help protect vulnerable workers. CBP is a global leader in forced labor enforcement, and we will continue to exclude products made by modern slavery from entering into the United States.” 

A Supermax spokesperson told Reuters: “Supermax is surprised that due consideration has not been given to the fact that corrective steps have started and improvements made to labour welfare.”

It said it has commissioned an independent consulting firm to conduct an audit into the status of foreign workers at its factories. 

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