PUTRAJAYA | The Human Resources Ministry will propose a new chapter on forced labour under the Employment Act 1955 to protect the rights of workers, says its minister M. Kulasegaran.

He said the current law was not enough and he planned to get the Cabinet’s approval for the amendment in a week or two.

“We have had consultations with stakeholders and we have brought up the issue of forced labour under the Employment Act as a chapter.

“We have spoken at length with all parties interested in this matter, and I am submitting it to the Cabinet in a week or two,” he said during a press conference after a townhall session between rubber gloves associations and producers and the Human Resource Minister on Friday (Oct 4).

After the Cabinet’s approval, Kulasegaran said he hoped to table it in the coming Parliament session.

He also urged the rubber gloves industry to comply with the social compliance requirement as soon as possible.

“The industry must take stock of the international demands and govern their industry well.

“It is imminent that the industry does it today. Don’t wait until 2021,” he said.

Kulasegaran said that it was for the benefit of the industry and the government will provide them the needed assistance on how to comply with the requirement.

The government has set 2021 for all industries to adhere to social compliance audit.

On Tuesday (Oct 1), it was reported that the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had blocked the import of disposable rubber gloves from WRP Asia, a Malaysian company suspected to have been made with forced labour.

Others include a garment maker from China, a group of artisanal gold miners from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a diamond mining company from Zimbabwe and a bone black manufacturer from Brazil.

The companies were issued Withhold Release Orders on Monday (Sept 30).

During the question and answer session in the townhall session, WRP Group of Companies spokesman Yeong Eng Seng said that the allegation was not accurate.

He admitted that the company was found guilty last year, but it had made the needed changes.

He said that it had third-party auditors auditing the company every three months and the reports were published.

“We are asking an attorney in the US to help us get out of this issue.

“And we welcome the US Embassy and YB (Kulasegaran) to visit our site,” said Yeong.

The United States Embassy political counsellor Sally Behrhorst said that the Withhold Release Order will stay in effect until it is revoked.

“It may be revoked or modified if evidence shows that the subject merchandised was not made with forced labour, is no longer being produced with forced labour, or no longer being or not likely to be imported into the United States,” she said reading the CBP order.

She said the US Embassy was open to meeting with WRP for a discussion.

“It is now up to the company to work with CBP to get themselves out of the order.

“It is up to the company to prove that their goods are not being made with forced labour,” she said.