U.K. sourced PPE from a supplier accused of forced labor

U.K. sourced PPE from a supplier accused of forced labor

  • Published on
    November 21, 2021
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
Hero Banner

The United Kingdom will investigate claims that personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by the National Health Service staff during the pandemic was made with forced labor.  

The Department for Business Energy and Industrials Strategy (BEIS) is looking into Supermax, a Malaysian company that won a £316m contract (approximately $420m) for 88.5m rubber gloves at the beginning of the pandemic.  

Workers at Supermax have accused the company of exploitation, alleging they were made to work 30 days in a row with no time off after having to pay high fees in their home countries to secure their jobs. 

U.S. ban raises questions in the U.K.’s House of Lords 

The investigation comes after the U.S. banned the Malaysian company from selling its products there last month. The ban was a response to an inquiry that found “ample evidence” of conditions of forced labor. 

A day after the ban, on October 21, Lord Jeremy Purvis addressed the BEIS minister Gerry Grimstone in the House of Lords, asking: “Will the minister instruct an urgent inquiry to ensure that we are not using these products, which are a result of modern slavery in Malaysia?” 

The Guardian reports: 

Asked by the Guardian for details of the inquiry, a government spokesperson said: “We take allegations of this nature very seriously and we are investigating the claims made against Supermax. We have made strong commitments to eradicate modern slavery from all contracts in the government supply chain.” 

The government made clear that the investigation could lead to Supermax being banned from supplying the NHS. “A proper due diligence process is carried out for all government contracts and our suppliers are required to follow the highest legal and ethical standards. If they fail to do so we will remove them from current and future contracts,” the spokesperson said. 

Call for mandatory human rights due diligence  

An internal Home Office report dated 2019 reported that most glove-making companies in Malaysia were at high risk of using forced labor. Yet, since the beginning of the pandemic, the U.K. has sourced PPE from several Malaysian companies which have been accused of forced labor and exploitation.  

Freedom United is calling for strong, mandatory human rights due diligence legislation in the U.S., U.K., and E.U. to send a clear signal to the private and public sector that they will be held accountable for failing to prevent modern slavery and human rights abuses in their supply chains. 

Join our call today. Sign the petition.  


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This week

European cocaine gangs using forced labor to exploit children

A recent investigation by The Guardian found the continent’s £10bn appetite for cocaine has led to forced child labor on an equally massive scale. Increasingly powerful drug cartels are forcing hundreds, possibly thousands, of unaccompanied child migrants to work as drug sellers on European streets. They do this to meet the growing demand for cocaine in cities including Paris and Brussels. Industrial scale exploitation The increase in refugees

| Tuesday June 11, 2024

Read more