Top Glove’s run-ins with US regulator raises questions about company’s claims

By Dominic Tham


EXECUTIVES in Top Glove Corp Bhd, the world’s largest manufacturer of rubber gloves, ought to be reminded of the adage “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

This is because despite the company’s repeated assurance that it had complied with labour standards, the US authorities is not satisfied.

Just a few days ago, the US law enforcement agency seized the company’s shipment of 3.97 million nitrile disposable gloves worth US$518,000 (RM2.14 mil).

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Cleveland said the seizure was due to information that the shipment was made by forced labour, a form of modern slavery.

For months, Top Glove has embarked on an aggressive campaign to counter the bad press it had received, ranging from horrific living conditions of its staff that led to COVID-19 clusters, to the lop-sided employment deals that made its foreign workers look like modern day slaves.

All these emerge amid Top Glove raking in billions from the spike in global demand for rubber gloves owing to the pandemic.

The company recently announced that it has resolved 11 International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicators, as verified by independent international UK consultant, Impactt Ltd (Impactt), affirming the company complies with global labour standards.

It has also made a “song and dance” about how it has moved thousands of workers from substandard living conditions to more comfortable quarters that come with facilities like canteens, convenience shops, sports and recreational facilities, and a laundromat.

If Top Glove had indeed done all these and more, why then did the US CBP continue to pick on the company, despite knowing how important rubber gloves are amid a global pandemic?

How much of the claims in Top Glove’s media releases about how well it treats its workers now, match its action? If it has done everything it can to turn things around, how does it explain the action by US authorities?

Perhaps the company’s executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai, who took home some RM3.791 mil in salaries and other perks for the financial year ending Aug 2020, should do more to turn his company’s battered image around.

The company needs to show what it has done to rectify all its shortcomings and prove them to the US authorities and the Malaysian public, who’s concerned about how Top Glove’s bad press is dragging the country’s image down with it.

Otherwise, all Top Glove’s publicity stunts and investors relations efforts would come to naught. Lim and his company need to put the money where their mouth is.

In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And if Top Glove doesn’t do something fast, it would have to eat more humble pies. – May 9, 2021


Dominic Tham is a FocusM editorial contributor.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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