* Fourth Malaysian firm to face U.S. ban in 15 months
* U.S. finds 10 of 11 forced labour indicators
* Supermax shares fall 9%
* U.S. accounts for 20% of Supermax's total sales
* Firm appoints independent firm for audit of factories
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The United States has
barred imports from Malaysian glove maker Supermax Corp
over alleged forced labour practices, the fourth
Malaysian firm to face such a ban in the past 15 months.
Malaysian factories - which make everything from palm oil to
medical gloves and iPhone components - have increasingly come
under scrutiny over allegations of abuse of foreign workers, who
form a significant part of the manufacturing workforce.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a
"Withhold Release Order" that prohibits imports from Supermax
based on reasonable information that indicates the use of forced
labour in its manufacturing operations, the CBP said in a
statement on Wednesday.
"With 10 of the 11 forced labour indicators identified
during the course of our investigation, CBP has ample evidence
to conclude that Supermax and its subsidiaries produce gloves in
violation of U.S. trade law," said AnnMarie R. Highsmith,
executive assistant commissioner at the CBP Office of Trade.
The CBP was referring to forced labour indicators identified
by the International Labour Organisation that include excessive
hours, debt bondage, physical and sexual violence, abusive
working and living conditions.
The CBP did not detail which indicators were found at
The firm's shares fell nearly 9% on Thursday.
Supermax said it was in contact with CBP to obtain more
clarity and that it will speed up a process it had begun in 2019
to meet ILO standards.
"Supermax is surprised that due consideration has not been
given to the fact that corrective steps have started and
improvements made to labour welfare," it said in a statement.
The company said the United States accounts for about 20% of
its total sales and that it will now take efforts to divert its
products to other markets.
The glove maker also said it has commissioned an independent
consulting firm to conduct an audit into the status of foreign
workers at its factories.
Most migrant workers in Malaysia come from Bangladesh and
Labour rights activist Andy Hall, who filed the petition to
the CBP to investigate Supermax, said his interviews with the
firm's workers showed they lived and worked in "appalling
He said the workers paid high recruitment fees - which
resulted in debt bondage - faced unlawful wage deductions and
lived in cramped conditions.
Supermax did not respond to Hall's comments.
Supermax's bigger Malaysian rival Top Glove - the
world's largest latex glove maker - was barred by the CBP over
similar allegations last July. The ban was lifted last month
after the company resolved the labour issues.
Palm oil producers Sime Darby Plantation and FGV
Holdings have also been banned by the CBP in the last
year over forced labour allegations.
Sime Darby and FGV have both appointed auditors to evaluate
their practices and said they would engage with the CBP to
address the concerns raised.
(Reporting by A. Ananthalakshmi; editing by Lincoln Feast and