Slavery at Glove Supplier

rubber gloves

Reports have emerged concerning personal protective equipment giant Ansell having ties to a Malaysian glove maker alleged to have subjected workers to forced labour and squalid living conditions inside shipping containers. Responding to a December 22 article in The Sydney Morning Herald and  The Age, ACRATH Executive Officer, Christine Carolan, wrote the following letter to the editor.

Dear Madam/ Sir

 Re: article Ansell under fire for ‘slavery’ at glove supplier

We in ACRATH are not surprised, and at the same time we are shocked by the article, “Ansell under fire for ‘slavery’ at glove supplier”.

We are not surprised, because prior to March 2019 we raised with Ansell reports of modern slavery in Malaysian glove manufacturing. At the time we were in a joint project with a major Catholic hospital system. Ansell responded to our concerns, citing four issues, all of which ACRATH named as modern slavery red flags. We called then for the repayment of illegal recruitment fees. We called for all workers to have access to a locker so they can keep control of their passports. We called for employees not to be required to work an average of 80 hours per week. We called for workers to be able to negotiate more than one rostered day off per month.

We are, however, shocked because it seems the slavery practices of two and a half years ago have not ceased.

COVID has added a further major health and safety challenge. Since early 2020 there has been a global call for safe COVID-free workplaces and accommodation for the migrant rubber glove factory workers in Malaysia. We know of workers recruited from villages in Myanmar, Nepal and Bangladesh whose families sell everything to pay USD 5000 for a job in one of these factories. We know of workers crammed into unsuitable housing such as the shipping containers mentioned in the article, where no social distancing is possible. We know of COVID outbreaks in these factories.

This is a matter of social justice for the migrant workers in Malaysia who make the rubber gloves that help to keep us COVID-free.

As the Christian festival of peace and solidarity approaches I for one will be logging on to the Ansell website to call on them to begin today the processes that will free those enslaved. As indicated above, what is required is not hard.

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