KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic is still raging outside Malaysia’s borders – causing increased demand for rubber gloves, something the world’s largest glove company is only too happy to meet, except that they are short of workers.
While restrictions have been eased as the number of Covid-19 cases dropped, the government recently announced it is suspending the intake of foreign workers till the end of the year, while encouraging companies to hire more Malaysians.
But Top Glove’s chairman and founder, Tan Sri Lim Wee Chai, told Bernama that expecting only locals to fill the vacancies is unrealistic, and will reduce Malaysia’s competitiveness.
He said they hired 2,500 local staff and workers last year, which form part of the company’s 19,000-strong workforce globally.
Despite their recruitment efforts, the current workforce is not sufficient to meet the demand for gloves, which has soared due to Covid-19.
“Before Covid-19, we were running (at) about 80-85% capacity. Now we are running more than 100%. Though we add in new capacity, we are still not able to cope with the demand; the demand is just too strong,” he said.
“So we hope the government will open up (the recruitment process) so that we can reduce the shortage of workers. So hopefully, by Sept 1, after the MCO is over.”
According to the company, the lead time to fulfil orders for gloves is now more than a year – which means if someone orders gloves today, it will take over a year before the shipment arrives at its destination. Prior to the pandemic, the lead time was between 10 and 60 days.
Andy Hall, an independent British migrant worker and labour rights activist, was unsurprised the company is asking the government to allow more foreign workers in.
“It’s hard work in a hot and sticky environment, so not many locals want to work there. Locals come for a short while and leave. (Foreign workers) are willing to work harder for less money and it’s not a good thing,” he said.
Top Glove has been the subject of news reports alleging labour rights violations, including a recent one by UK’s Channel 4, accusing the company of excessive overtime, illegal salary deductions and unethical recruitment practices, among others.
When asked, Lim acknowledged the company had made some mistakes and said it rectified them as best as they could.
He added that workers take home at least RM1,600 a month, which is above the minimum wage in Malaysia, are compensated according to time worked and seniority, and in accordance with local labour laws. The company also provides free healthcare and subsidised meals to their staff.
Hall agreed the company has made some progress in addressing some of the concerns, but said there are still many areas that need to be addressed.
According to news reports, Top Glove has been investing billions of ringgit in automation to address the shortage of foreign workers.