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Dirty Hands In Rubber Gloves

In December of 2018, Malaysia’s rubber glove industry, the biggest in the world, woke to a rude shock.

Global media had begun reporting a series of accusations about the industry’s labour rights practices, including issues of forced labour, unsafe working conditions, confiscation of worker passports, illegal withholding of wages and “mental torture”.

The media coverage kicked off a series of events and feedback that rumbled on for more than three years and brought major repercussions for the industry’s biggest global players.

A new era for worker rights

The issue of labour rights has been a global concern for decades, but the story of Top Glove, Kossan, Hartalega, and Supermax brought into sharp focus how worker rights issues are now a major business risk, and reputational risk, for Asian companies.

In the space of a few days the Malaysian Big 4 were singled out by Reuters, the UK’s Guardian and Australian media.


Over the following months and years the world’s biggest asset manager would take action to block the appointment of directors at Top Glove, and most significantly of all, the US government began taking action to block imports of rubber gloves from the targeted companies.

Less reported but no less important was the shocking oversights that allowed these problems to continue for so long. Those global agencies charged with monitoring workers’ conditions regularly gave the Malaysian glove industry a clean bill of health.


Even the media were asleep at the wheel, until the realities were revealed by the diligence of one man.

That man was Andy Hall.


Here, he and Darian McBain discuss the ever-increasing scrutiny being applied to Asian labour issues, and how other business leaders should consider their own exposure.


Further readings:

Clean Gloves, Dirty Practices: Debt Bondage in Malaysia’s Rubber Glove Industry

Debt Bondage Payouts Flow to Workers in Malaysia’s Glove Industry

After Pressure, Growing Transparency in Malaysia’s Glove Industry

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