In this August 26, 2020 file photo, a worker inspects disposable gloves at the Top Glove factory in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Credit: AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File
Former workers at Malaysian rubber glove maker Brightway Holdings have sued two foreign companies in a US court, accusing them of “knowingly profiting” from the supplier’s alleged use of forced labor.
the lawsuit was presented on Tuesday by International Rights Advocates (IRA), a Washington-based legal advocacy group, on behalf of 13 migrant workers from Bangladesh. It claims that the multinational companies Kimberly-Clark Corp (ICC) and Ansell Ltd profited from forced labor in Malaysia’s Brightway glove factories, and knew they were doing so.
“Both companies have repeatedly been made aware of and publicly acknowledged the problems of forced labor and trafficking on the Brightway, the IRA said in a statement yesterday. “And both companies received low-priced latex gloves from Brightway Group thanks to the cheap labor of workers, including Plaintiffs, who were victims of human trafficking and forced labor.”
For years, Malaysia, the world’s leading manufacturer of disposable rubber gloves, has faced allegations of exploitation and other blatant labor abuses in the rubber and palm oil sectors. As a result, several Malaysian companies have been hit with import bans or restrictions by US customs officials for alleged labor abuses. Reuters reports that eight Malaysian companies, including six glove makers, have been banned by the US in the last three years. Among them is Brightway.
In last year’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, the US Department of State. fell malaysia to “Tier 3,” its lowest rating, due to the government’s lack of action to combat trafficking and labor abuses. Malaysia remained at the same level in this year’s reportwhich I declare that Although the government “took some steps to address trafficking”, it did not “adequately address and prosecute credible allegations from multiple sources alleging labor trafficking in the rubber manufacturing industry and palm oil sector”.
According to the IRA statement, the 13 workers “were trafficked to Malaysia and forced to work at a disposable glove manufacturing plant owned by the Brightway Group. The suit alleges that many of the plaintiffs paid recruiters more than $4,000 with the promise of a safe, well-paying job in Malaysia. Their passports were then confiscated and they were forced to work long hours with few days off.
The lawsuit alleges that the plaintiffs “were forced to work 12-hour shifts with few or no days off. They were constantly subjected to physical and verbal abuse by their supervisors; they were beaten, yelled at, threatened and prohibited from accessing medical care.”
“Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of thousands of other workers who, like them, were subjected to the same systematic trafficking and forced labor scheme that Brightway used to staff its facilities,” it added.
The lawsuit notes that after finding evidence of forced labor in its supply chains, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) filed a withholding-release order against Brightway Group in December. 2021, which blocked the delivery of its rubber gloves to US ports. The IRA claims to have ample evidence that Ansell and KCC “were intimately aware of trafficking and forced labor in their supply chains, but refused.” to properly address such violations until CBP’s WRO forced them to do so.”
International companies sourcing from Malaysia have long been aware of the exploitation and labor abuses occurring in the country’s labor supply chains, and many have publicly committed to solving the problem. in a statement to ReutersKCC said the lawsuit was “meritless” and that it “opposes all forms of forced labor and we are committed to ensuring that all workers within our supply chain are treated humanely and in accordance with our labor and safety standards.” human rights”.
But the lawsuit makes a fairly straightforward case that they have done little to address the problem, citing the IRA’s Terrence Collingsworth as saying the companies had failed to respond and workers “had no choice but to seek justice through the US legal system.” the United States. ”
“Ansell and KCC have attempted to maintain their public reputations despite such use of forced labor, each publishing statements about their dedication to addressing and ending modern slavery,” the lawsuit states, as quoted in a story by BenarNews. “Words without action mean nothing, and do not in any way resolve any company from legal or moral liability.”