The upsurge in demand for single-use gloves because of covid-19 has created widespread concerns of quality and labour exploitation at factories, a global leading Kiwi glove expert says.
As covid cases continue to rise globally – and the northern hemisphere stockpiles gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) before the onset of winter – glove supply continues to be a worldwide issue, Eagle Protect chief executive Steve Ardagh says.
Eagle Protect, which has operations in New Zealand and the USA, is the world’s only certified B Corporation business supplying disposable gloves and clothing.
Established glove factories are working at absolute capacity to meet demand and reporting record profits, Ardagh says.
Dealers, with no experience in the glove industry, are sourcing from new factories with unknown quality control procedures in place. The problems with glove procurement can be two-fold.
“Firstly, gloves may not meet quality standards to provide sufficient barrier protection to the virus. Be alert to counterfeit products. Secondly, we see frequent reports daily of slave and forced labour in glove factories.
“Reports of counterfeit gloves, masks and essential PPE products are widespread. Gloves are being sourced from anywhere and everywhere.
“New factories and dealers are opportunists taking advantage of the lack of supply, potentially to the detriment of medical workers, first responders, food handlers, consumers and our essential workers.
“All these workers need a supply of good quality gloves. Reject quality gloves are flooding the market and there have been several reports of used gloves being repackaged and sold
“Reports of forced and slave labour in clothing manufacturing are widely known and the glove manufacturing industry is no different with labour rights abuse regularly reported.
“Because of forced labour concerns, the US two months ago banned the import of surgical gloves from two subsidiaries of Malaysia’s Top Glove, the world’s largest manufacturer of disposable gloves.
“The ban affects about half of its sales to the United States, which will likely be sent to other countries without anti-slavery laws, such as New Zealand.”
Last year, labour abuse and exploitation of workers in Top Glove factories were highlighted, again exposing forced labour and migrant worker exploitation throughout their vast network of factories.