U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel in Cleveland seized a shipment of 3.97 million nitrile disposable gloves from Top Glove Corp. due to information indicating they were made by forced labor, a form of modern slavery.
On March 29, CBP had directed personnel at all U.S. ports of entry to begin seizing disposable gloves produced in Malaysia by Top Glove. This came after the CBP Office of Trade, in collaboration with the Secretary of the Treasury, published a “forced labor finding” in the Customs Bulletin and in the Federal Register announcing that it had determined that certain disposable gloves have been “mined, produced or manufactured” in Malaysia by Top Glove “with the use of convict, forced or indentured labor, and are being, or are likely to be, imported into the United States.”
The order was an expansion of a Withhold Release Order issued in July that detained the same products based on “reasonable but not conclusive” evidence of multiple forced labor indicators in Top Glove’s manufacturing, including debt bondage, excessive overtime, retention of identity documents and abusive working and living conditions.
The shipment in Cleveland was seized after an inspection by CBP officers revealed that the gloves were produced in Malaysia by a subsidiary of Top Glove. The estimated value of the shipment was $518,000.
“This seizure sends a strong message that CBP will not tolerate imports made by forced labor, which is a form of modern slavery that hurts vulnerable workers and threatens our economy,” Diann Rodriguez, area port director for Cleveland, said. “CBP continues to facilitate the importation of legitimate PPE needed for the COVID-19 pandemic while ensuring that the PPE is authorized and safe for use.”
CBP issued a forced labor finding on March 29 based on evidence of multiple forced labor indicators in Top Glove’s production process, including debt bondage, excessive overtime, abusive working and living conditions, and retention of identity documents.
Last week, Top Glove announced that it had resolved all 11 International Labor Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labor. The resolution was verified by independent international consultant Impactt Limited in a report dated April 22.
Top Glove said on April 28 that since July, the company has engaged Impactt to advise on measures for improving its labor policies and practices. In March, the company said it had remedied five ILO indicators of forced labor that indicates “further progress made” and was one step away from a category that indicates full resolution of the forced labor indicators.
Impactt said in its report posted on its website that the findings of the third verification carried out in April showed Top Glove had made further progress to close the six indicators of forced labor indicators remaining in January–retention of identity documents, abusive working and living conditions, deception, debt bondage, physical and sexual violence and intimidation.
Neither CBP nor Top Glove immediately responded to a request for comment. It is currently unclear if the seized goods were produced before or after the stated resolution of the six forced labor indicators.