Major Malaysian gloves manufacturer Top Glove has criticized a Canadian investigative report for “misleading and damaging” news coverage that it said had unfairly left out steps the company recently took to improve the lives of its workers.
The company said this in a statement yesterday, days after the Friday report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, went up, featuring several hidden camera footages purportedly showing violence and unsafe practices at the workplace, including scenes of an employer being assaulted, dozens of people crammed in a dorm, and multiple breaches of COVID-19 safety measures.
Top Glove, where thousands of workers had been infected by the coronavirus since late last year, called out the news coverage for not adding enough information on its “remedial actions.” It also said that CBC had “wrongly reported” on workers suffering from debt bondage, saying that it had reimbursed recruitment fees for thousands of workers, including those who have left the company. CBC said that workers they spoke to were not eligible for reimbursements because they started work before 2019.
“Top Glove clarifies that the allegations raised in these reporting and the manner they were presented is thoroughly misleading and damaging to the Company’s good-standing reputation as it suggests a breach in the implementation of existing policies that are advocated by the Company and its Directors,” yesterday’s statement said.
“The Company states that CBC’s reporting intentionally downplays or excludes altogether the most current remedial actions which Top Glove has taken on the issues highlighted in its reporting to meaningfully address these allegations, which include Top Glove’s commitment to combating forced labour and its current implementation of robust policies to protect the rights of its workers,” it added. Top Glove also noted that it was “extremely disappointed” by the report.
It went on to clarify that the supervisor who was filmed slapping a worker in CBC’s reporting had already been dismissed and that a total of RM61 million (US$15 million) worth of recruitment fees had been reimbursed to 11,000 workers since August. About 2,000 workers were also moved to a new hostel in December and plans for more hostels were in the pipeline, Top Glove added. On COVID-19 safety measures, however, Top Glove recognized that there “continues to be room for improvement.”
Last year, the company brushed off a similar report by UK’s Channel 4 in June as “highly inaccurate.” Months later, Top Glove factories along Jalan Meru in Klang recorded nearly 7,000 COVID-19 infections, forcing them to shut down for nearly a month until they reopened on Jan. 6.
On Saturday, more infections were reported at its factories in Port Dickson, Sungai Puloh, Shah Alam, and Kedah. The affected staff were sent for COVID-19 testing and quarantined. The factories were allowed to resume operations after being disinfected.
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