A employee on the largest international producer of medical rubber gloves has died after contracting Covid-19, within the first identified Covid-related demise of an worker on the Malaysian firm for the reason that virus started to unfold by means of its factories and dormitories.
High Glove’s earnings have surged through the pandemic, however the firm has confronted repeated criticism over its remedy of migrant employees, together with claims that it has failed to guard them from the coronavirus.
Greater than 5,400 individuals have been contaminated, a lot of them High Glove employees, as a result of outbreaks on the firm’s factories, the place employees have warned there’s little social distancing.
On Saturday, a 29-year-old employee, initially from Nepal, died after being identified with Covid-19 pneumonia with lung fibrosis. He had labored at High Glove’s manufacturing facility in Klang, 25 miles (40km) west of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, for greater than two years. It’s not identified whether or not he contracted the virus at work.
The corporate, which makes 1 / 4 of the world’s medical latex gloves, has confronted a number of allegations of exploitation from migrant employees. Previous to the pandemic, in 2018, the Guardian revealed allegations that employees on the factories had been topic to pressured labour and time beyond regulation, debt bondage, withheld wages and passport confiscation.
As gross sales of protecting gear soared over the previous 12 months, employees stated they’ve toiled for lengthy hours to fulfill demand. In April, staff advised the Guardian they weren’t being supplied with sufficient safety, and that they had been working 12-hour shifts, six days every week, with some incomes as little as £7 a day.
Staff, who’re principally from Nepal and Bangladesh, additionally reported that they had been sleeping in 24-person dorms, taking crowded buses to work and that social distancing in factories was not maintained.
High Glove has not but responded to a request for remark, however has beforehand rejected claims that employees have been mistreated.
Final month the Malaysian authorities launched strict motion controls and ordered the staggered closure of High Glove factories in order that employees may very well be screened and quarantined. The labour division has since stated it will file prices towards High Glove over its employee lodging, which it stated was overcrowded and poorly ventilated.
US Customs and Border Safety positioned an import ban on two of High Glove’s subsidiaries in July, following allegations of pressured labour, however the firm has benefitted from enormous demand elsewhere. It reported a web revenue of $470m for the monetary 12 months ending August – up from $90m the earlier 12 months.
In September, the Guardian discovered that, regardless of allegations of employee abuses, medical gloves made by the corporate had been lately equipped to no less than one NHS hospital. High Glove stated in a press release on the time that “worker security, well being and wellbeing have at all times been of utmost significance” and listed a lot of steps it had taken to guard employees through the coronavirus.
Andy Corridor, a employees’ rights campaigner, stated worldwide patrons and authorities regulators had “turned a blind eye” to issues to “guarantee sooner and cheaper supply of a lot wanted PPE through the pandemic”.
The outbreak in High Glove services is one other reminder of the vulnerability of migrant employees through the pandemic. Earlier this 12 months, Singapore confronted a main outbreak in cramped employees’ dormitories, the place individuals slept on bunk beds with as many as 20 to a room.