Malaysia’s condom manufacturer, Karex faces allegation over harsh labour practices

28-Jan-2019 Intellasia | Malay Mail | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The world’s biggest condom manufacturer, Karex Bhd has been implicated by a news report for alleged unfair treatment of its foreign labour.

According to UK-based daily The Telegraph, the Selangor-based manufacturer had allegedly placed some of their Nepali and Bangladeshi workers in “cramped and undignified conditions”.

The report also claimed the company’s foreign workers received low salaries with one interviewed workers saying that he could only earn about RM1,026 monthly after working eight hours a day, six days a week.

The UK daily said it talked to 22 Nepali and Bangladeshi employees of Karex’s condom and catheter factories in Pontian, Senai and Port Klang last week.

One employee identified as Mahesh Thapa said he left his two children in Kathmandu, Nepal to work at the factory in Malaysia two years ago but is now worried that his RM6 hourly pay is not sufficient for his family’s survival.

He told the daily that his overtime earnings had dried up and now he was struggling to support his mother, wife and children back in Kathmandu.

“I have a family and I also have to eat and survive here. Without overtime earnings, I can’t support them. What should I do?” Mahesh was quoted as saying.

Mahesh who is indebted to a creditor who borrowed RM4,410 demanded by Nepali recruiters that brought him to work with Karex, also said that quitting was not a viable option as he would have to pay a hefty penalty of three months salary if he broke his three-year contract early.

The Telegraph also claimed that some of Karex workers in Pontian, Johor were housed up in damp and unhygienic dormitories.

Each of them was alleged to have paid about GBP 9 (RM49) a month for hostel accommodation but only “received half of a steel bunk bed, no mattress, a piece of string on a grimy wall for a wardrobe, access to a filthy, broken toilet and a kitchen consisting of two gas burners.”

According to Forbes, Karex produces five billion condoms a year, accounting for roughly 15 per cent of the world market and supplies condoms to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and brands such as Tesco, Boots and Superdrug.

In response to the claims, Karex chief executive officer Goh Miah Kiat said that the company recognised it was “critical to shed light on unfair labour practices” and took the allegations “extremely seriously”.

He said that Karex had also promptly addressed previous issues raised by regular independent audits and had made improvements.

The company had earlier told the UK-based daily that it “does not believe that forced labour or modern slavery is currently occurring at our factories”.

In December, UK-based daily The Guardian alleged that Top Glove Corporation Bhd oppressed thousands of workers, including forcing them to exceed the maximum overtime limit of 104 hours as stipulated in the Employment Act 1955, as well as debt bondage and the confiscation of the workers’ passports.


Category: Malaysia

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