Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman launched a scathing attack on rubber glove giant Top Glove today over the large number of its workers who have contracted the Covid-19 virus.
“This company has a problematic record when it comes to the welfare of its workers,” the Muar MP said.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today announced a record high of 1,884 daily Covid-19 infections.
He also reported a sharp spike of workplace-related infections, with the Teratai cluster linked to the Top Glove factory in Selangor recording 1,067 new Covid-19 patients.
Top Glove, the world’s largest maker of rubber gloves, has come under a trade ban from US authorities following allegations of worker abuse.
The allegations came as it recorded a surge in demand for its gloves during the Covid-19 outbreak, reporting a RM1.3 billion net profit in the fourth quarter ending Aug 31, 2020, 18 times more than last year.
Syed Saddiq questioned why the factory had continued operations despite the Teratai cluster being identified on Nov 2.
Saying he has “no sympathy” for big corporations, Syed Saddiq said he had been criticised for urging Top Glove to pay a “windfall tax” following its “supernormal” profits.
He said such a tax had been imposed in the past for various industries which recorded unusual profits.
This includes taxes on plantation companies in 1998 and independent power producers in 2008.
“Why is it that in 2020 we cannot impose tax on this hand glove maker that has become the biggest company in Malaysia during the Covid-19 crisis?” he asked, adding that a windfall tax on the company would only amount to some RM4.8 billion.
MalaysiaNow is attempting to contact Top Glove for a response.
AFP meanwhile reported that the company would close over half of its factories following the surge in Covid-19 cases.
“Based on advice from the health ministry, it was agreed at a special meeting today to shut down 28 Top Glove factories… in stages to allow the workers to undergo tests and quarantine,” it quoted Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob as saying.
Top Glove said in a statement it would “cooperate fully with the relevant authorities to implement the temporary stoppage”, and that plant closures had begun.
About 5,700 workers have already been screened and the rest will also undergo tests, it said in the AFP report.
According to AFP, the company operates 47 factories – 41 in Malaysia – and many of its workers are from Nepal and live in crowded dormitory complexes.
In July, the US Customs and Border Protection blocked disposable gloves manufactured by Top Glove, following claims of forced labour and other abuses.
Top Glove has denied the allegations, and accused an activist of sabotage.
In late 2018, Britain’s The Guardian said Top Glove workers were overworked and their passports and wages withheld. The paper also quoted workers as saying they were forced to work seven days a week for at least 12 hours a day, and were only granted one day of leave per month.
Then human resources minister M Kulasegaran at that time rejected the claims, saying the allegations were false.