BANGKOK – The Malaysian government announced on Monday the closure of 28 Top Glove factories, the world’s largest manufacturer of sanitary gloves, following a surge in COVID-19 infections among workers.
According to a press conference held by Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the closure of 28 of the company’s 41 sites in Malaysia was decided after 1,889 out of 5,794 workers tested positive for coronavirus.
The minister says the decision has been made in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s risk assessments to allow for increased monitoring of workers and quarantine for workers where necessary.
This arrangement comes just a week after more than 5,700 Top Glove immigrant workers were quarantined to control an outbreak of COVID-19 in their dormitories.
Top Glove confirmed on Nov. 3 the first 17 positive coronavirus cases among its staff in Malaysia.
Trade unionist Andy Hall criticized the company at the time, saying workers had been reporting “precarious methods of physical distancing and prevention” in their factories since March.
Migrant workers have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic in Malaysia, with 48,520 infections and 313 deaths from COVID-19.
Top Glove has also been rocked by controversy after the United States banned the import of gloves manufactured by its subsidiaries in July due to alleged labor abuses, although the company claims to have solved these issues.
The confiscation of passports, weeks without days off, working more than 84 hours in a week, movement restrictions and unfair pay cuts are just some of the exploitative practices reported in Malaysia by migrant workers, who generally stay in overcrowded dormitories.
With 41 factories in Malaysia, four in Thailand, one in China and Vietnam, the multinational company is the largest producer of medical gloves with over 90 billion made per year.
In recent months, Top Glove has seen its biggest-ever profit increase compared with the same period last year, up 365%, to 350 million ringgit (about €71 million).