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World's top latex glove maker charged after coronavirus outbreak

·1-min read
Malaysia's Top Glove is the world's biggest latex glove maker

Malaysian firm Top Glove, the world's biggest latex glove maker, was charged Tuesday with providing poor housing for its workers after thousands were infected in a coronavirus outbreak last year.

The company's profits and stock price surged last year when countries worldwide rushed to buy protective gear as the Covid-19 pandemic intensified.

But more than 5,000 migrant workers, mainly from South Asia, who make gloves at its factories were infected when the virus surged through their dormitories -- where dozens typically share a room.

The outbreak prompted Top Glove to temporarily close over half its Malaysian factories, triggering warnings of delivery delays and rising prices.

On Tuesday, it was hit with 10 counts of failing to provide certified accommodation for its workers in the northwestern city of Ipoh, state news agency Bernama reported.

Such certification from labour officials is required under laws related to providing workers with a decent standard of housing.

The charges followed raids on the dormitories in Ipoh in November. Officials also raided workers' accommodation in other parts of the country.

Top Glove, which faces a fine of up to 50,000 ringgit ($12,000) for each count, pleaded not guilty.

The company confirmed the court appearance in a statement and insisted it "remains highly committed to ensuring high-quality welfare, health, working conditions, and living accommodation for its workforce".

The firm -- which has 21,000 staff and can produce over 90 billion gloves a year -- has insisted it is making improvements by spending millions of dollars on new accommodation.

But the scandal has added to growing pressure on Top Glove, already under scrutiny after the United States banned the import of some of its gloves over allegations of forced labour last year.

sr/jfx