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Glove Manufacturer Accused of Labour Rights Abuse

World’s Largest Disposable Glove Manufacturer Accused of Labour Rights Abuse

A NZ news organisation has reported on a recent Reuters article (December 2018), highlighting labour abuse and exploitation of workers in factories of a major supplier of disposable gloves to NZ industries.

Malaysian company Top Glove is the world’s largest manufacturer of disposable gloves, producing up to 60.5 billion gloves per year for health, aged care, food and industrial industries. This most recent investigation has yet again highlighted forced labour and migrant worker exploitation throughout their vast network of factories.

This is not a one-off allegation. In 2015 the British Medical Association (BMA) Medical Fair and Ethical Trade group convened to tackle labour rights abuse in the medical (disposable) gloves manufacturing industry. Their report “In Good Hands. Tackling labor rights concerns in the manufacture of medical gloves,” highlights numerous labour rights abuse reports from Top Glove and other factories.

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Top Glove produces its own brand of gloves, but, as reported in the BMA document, 80% of its production is for other global brands, including Australian-listed corporate Ansell, also a supplier to NZ industries. As reported by ABC News, unions and labour rights experts have called on Ansell to step up efforts to protect workers at Top Glove factories in Malaysia that supply gloves to the company.

Australia's Government passed an historic Modern Slavery Act in November 2018, to stamp out slavery in the supply chain of Australian companies. The Act requires large business conducted in Australia with a minimum annual consolidated revenue of $100 million to report publicly on the actions they have taken to address modern slavery risks in their operations and supply chains. Although the UK’s Modern Slavery Act was passed in 2015, a recent report of non-compliance has been described as “concerning”.

With global manufacturing companies chasing the lowest cost of production to satisfy shareholder demands, and glove suppliers and end users demanding the lowest price possible, areas in the supply chain suffer. Factories may compromise raw materials ingredients by adding fillers and cheap toxic compounds, neglect environmental standards and exploit those working at glove factories.

The disposable glove industry has not gained the same media attention as the problems in other manufacturing industries. Consumers do not think about disposable gloves as they do with their clothes, for example, so it comes under less scrutiny.

Although the slavery laws may just be window dressing to some companies, the hope is that consumers and end users of disposable gloves will care enough to demand knowledge and proof of supply chain transparency in the product that protects their hands.

Ensuring your glove supplier personally visits their factories, to regularly audit labour conditions, environmental impact, and quality control is essential to combat the issue of labour abuse. Additionally, third party verification by recognised organisations such as Child Labor Free, is further commitment to transparency in your suppliers supply chain.

Steve Ardagh Eagle Protect CEO at Eagle Nitrile Glove factory

Steve Ardagh CEO of Eagle Protect, local glove supplier and certified B Corp said, “Out of sight out of mind is a problem with products like disposable gloves, but fortunately the world is becoming a more transparent place and consumers and businesses have the power to change things with their purchasing power!”

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