KUALA LUMPUR (July 29): Foodstuffs, New Zealand's largest retail grocery organisation, said Top Glove Corp Bhd's products will remain off its shelves until the glove maker satisfies its ethical standards in rubber glove production, Newsroom reported today.
Newsroom, quoting Foodstuffs head of corporate affairs and corporate social responsibility Antoinette Laird, reported that Foodstuffs' supermarket chain had pulled Top Glove's disposable rubber gloves off its shelves while investigating whether they might have been made in slave-like working conditions.
"New Zealand’s biggest supermarket chain is also checking the gloves being worn in-store by its staff after allegations of migrant labour abuse at two Malaysian Top Glove factories," Newsroom reported.
Laird reportedly said: “Upon investigation, one local supplier of disposable gloves was found to have imported from Top Glove. Where this brand of disposable gloves was stocked for retail sale in our stores, it has now been removed from the shelves. Where this brand was used for the preparation of food in our stores, it is being replaced with an alternative brand.
Meanwhile, Newsroom claimed it had seen evidence of Top Glove's products coming into New Zealand via medical supply importer Protec. It was reported that Protec told Newsroom its customers included “Foodstuffs and hospitals”.
Newsroom claimed that the opacity of supply chains in New Zealand also means it is unclear whether private hospitals, general practitioners, carers, and private companies like retailers and food factories could still be using Top Glove's products.
"Foodstuffs, the owner of the New World, Pak’nSave and Four Square chains, is looking at whether disposable rubber gloves imported by Wellington-based importer/wholesaler supplier Protec and bought by Foodstuffs could have come from factories owned by Top Glove.
"Earlier this month, the US banned imports from two Top Glove subsidiaries because of alleged slave-like conditions for migrant workers in their factories.
"Top Glove has been accused of forcing migrants (mostly women from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal) to work long hours (12 hours a day, seven days a week would not be unusual to them) for low wages in factories with suboptimal health and safety standards.
"Human rights advocates claimed the workers live in huge, cramped hostels, and many are bounded by their employers or recruitment agencies for months or years because of big debts they took on to get a job in the factories. Some had their passports confiscated and wages withheld.
"The issue has come to a head as the coronavirus pandemic massively increases demand for disposable gloves, potentially forcing more migrants to work longer hours," Newsroom claimed.
At the time of writing of this report from theedgemarkets.com, Top Glove had not issued a statement in response to Newsroom's report and claims.
At Bursa Malaysia's 12.30pm break today, Top Glove's share price settled 62 sen or 2.35% lower at RM25.78, valuing the company at some RM72.66 billion.
Its share price fell after rising to a record high of RM26.96 earlier today.