Rubber glove maker WRP to face charges for withholding migrant workers’ salaries

The Human Resources Ministry said the Labour Department has initiated legal action against WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd. — Reuters pic
The Human Resources Ministry said the Labour Department has initiated legal action against WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — The Human Resources Ministry announced today that the government will take WRP Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd to court for withholding the salaries of its workers from Bangladesh and Nepal, which triggered a strike by 2,000 staff earlier this week.

The ministry said the Sepang-based latex glove manufacturer was found to have withheld the salaries for its migrant work staff since November last year.

It added that the company will still have to face legal action even after it agreed last Tuesday to pay the workers their three months salaries owed.

“This is to ensure the incident does not repeat itself and to serve as a reminder to other employers as well,” it said in a statement.

The ministry said the Labour Department has initiated legal action against the rubber glove maker. However, they did not specify what the charges or the offences will be.

After the strike, the ministry said it had a meeting with the company and the Bangladesh and Nepal embassies where an agreement was reached on a payment schedule that would see WRP workers receive their monthly salaries and overtime claims paid on time again from next tomorrow.

It said that the payment for wages for November 2018 started on January 28 while overtime was paid on January 29. December’s wages would be paid latest by February 1 while overtime would be paid by February 15 and January’s pay and overtime would be paid on February 28.

On January 29, it was reported that some 2,000 Nepali workers were on strike at the company’s factory in Bandar Baru Salak Tinggi in Sepang.

After investigation, the company was found to have committed labour offences including not paying workers’ wages for three months, not paying overtime, unfair pay cuts and wrongful working hours during break and public holidays.

The three-day strike ended on the same day after the company agreed to pay the outstanding wages.

The issue first came to light in early December when UK-based The Guardian reported that thousands of Nepalese and Bangladeshi workers were allegedly indentured at two Malaysian rubber glove factories with forced overtime, debt bondage, withheld wages and passport confiscation.

The investigation alleged that at least two companies supplying rubber gloves to the UK’s National Health Service — WRP and Top Glove — were involved with such practices.

These allegedly involved subjecting workers to exploitative working conditions, including factory temperatures were up to 70°C for those working near the ovens, and that more than 3,000 workers were housed in a hostel built for 1,800.

At the time, WRP chief executive Lee Son Hong dismissed the allegations of forced labour as “baseless”, insisting that the company had never withheld or delayed payments for its employees, and that they paid monthly wages according to the Malaysian Employment Act.

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