Migrant rights group chides govt for defending Top Glove, says sending wrong signals

Executive Director of Tenaganita, Glorene Das speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Executive Director of Tenaganita, Glorene Das speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur December 18, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 17 — A rights group said today the government’s defence of Top Glove Corporation Bhd, the company accused of forced labour and debt bondage, could easily be misread as condoning the abuse of migrant workers.

The Migrant Workers Right to Redress Coalition said Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran’s dismissal of the allegations was shocking and sent the wrong signal to the millions of migrant workers already living in abject conditions today.

“The cursory dismissal of such serious allegations of forced labour by the government does not bode well for the many millions of migrant workers in the country,” the coalition representative Glorene Das told a press conference here.

“It doesn’t spell hope for any serious improvement in the working and living conditions of migrant workers in the country,” she added.

Migrant workers at the Malaysian firm were reportedly forced to work long hours to earn overtime pay and in some cases exceed the limit allowed under national laws, according to a report by Thomson Reuters Foundation last week.

Top Glove, the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves, was accused of practising debt bondage, including withholding its foreign workers’ passports to restrict their movement and force labour.

Top Glove's executives have since denied the allegation. In a December 10 visit to its factory in Klang, Selangor, Kulasegaran was reported saying his ministry found no element of coercion.

Das, who also heads Tenaganita, a grassroots advocacy group for migrants, said the minister should have instead given assurance that the government would address the allegations holistically.

“Instead of pretending everything is fine with the employment of migrant workers at Top Glove and elsewhere in the country, the government should take this expose as a reminder to urgently address the many persistent issues plaguing labour migration,” she said.

Putrajaya has said it is in the midst of drafting a policy for migrant workers after prolonged pressure from rights groups and some workers unions.

But in the meantime complaints of abuses remain widespread, especially by immigration and enforcement authorities.

Cases of extortion, physical harm and unjust detention and arrest have been documented even as Putrajaya promised to curb migrant exploitation and uphold human rights.

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