Top Glove says puzzled by HR minister calling its staff dorms ‘deplorable’

A general view of the entrance of Top Glove Corporation Berhad’s male staff dormitories in Klang November 16, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A general view of the entrance of Top Glove Corporation Berhad’s male staff dormitories in Klang November 16, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 ― Top Glove Corporation Berhad said it did not understand why Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan called its worker dormitories “deplorable” and invited him to evaluate its newer facilities.

Top Glove executive chairman Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai said the ministry inspected the  dormitories roughly several months ago, after the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) banned imports from two subsidiaries of Top Glove on suspicion of forced labour back in July.

Rejecting claims that quarters were crowded and unsanitary, he said the firm spent almost RM20 million to purchase improved accommodations for its workers to comply with the Workers’ Minimum Standards of Housing and Amenities Act.

“I don't know why he said this recently. We also welcome him to come and visit again. Since the minister's visit, our condition has since improved.

“So it came as a big surprise when such a comment is made. We will need to clarify with the ministry to see what are the areas that we are not doing correctly and improve further,” he said during a virtual press conference conducted through Zoom.

During the virtual sessions, photographs of the current dorm and provided amenities were shown to the media.

Saravanan was quoted as saying in an English daily yesterday that the entire Labour Department will be tasked with investigating the conditions at Top Glove factories in Klang, Selangor.

In Klang alone, the firm has 28 factories, which have become the epicentre of the Teratai cluster with a reported 4,036 Covid-19 cases from November 7. Over 80 per cent of the infected are foreign workers.

Echoing Lim's remark, Top Glove managing director Datuk Lee Kim Meow said the company wanted to correct views about the welfare of their workers, insisting that it has made strides in this area on the advice of the relevant authorities since July.

“We know that this is issue has troubled many industries. We felt at that time, we needed to do more and the ministry came to us and we showed them. They gave us a thumbs up and complimented us.

“We have kept track of it very closely and have given assurances to our stakeholders. We want to put this behind us. As you can see, arising out of this episode we also realised the virus don't discriminate against any parties,” he said, adding that the company has sought to better control and strengthen its preventive measures since.

Responding to the high number of cases involving its workers within the Teratai cluster, Lim disclosed that around 3,000 individuals from the company comprised those who have tested positive.

However, he expressed astonishment at the number of positive cases among his employees and cited how some of them could be false positives in reference to the first batch of screening conducted in early November where 17 out of 30 of the workers obtained such results.

However, Lim said he was not disputing the Health Ministry's data but added they were working closely with them to determine the best method of Covid-19 testing as the sensitivity will determine the number of positive cases.

As for staff who have been discharged from the hospital, Lim affirmed that they have been placed in hotels as they were not allowed to return to their dormitories after an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) was imposed to facilitate targeted Covid-19 screenings from November 17 until November 30.

Top Glove, the world’s largest manufacturer of rubber gloves, currently employs over 21,000 workers nationwide.

On Monday, the NSC ruled that Top Glove must close its factories in stages after the highly infectious virus was found to have breached the workers’ lodgings and entered the community at large.

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