Canada has terminated its sourcing contract with Malaysian medical glove maker Supermax following allegations about forced labour, the country’s public services and procurement department said on Tuesday.
Malaysian factories making personal protective equipment (PPE), such as Supermax and Top Glove, have increasingly come under scrutiny over allegations they abuse foreign workers, who form a significant part of the manufacturing workforce.
The Canadian government had put on hold its contracts with Supermax in November 2021, saying it would determine its next steps after receiving an audit report over the firm’s labour practices.
“Based on the seriousness of the allegations and expected timelines for the final audit results, the government of Canada has decided, and Supermax Healthcare Canada has agreed, to terminate by mutual consent the two existing contracts for the supply of nitrile gloves,” the department said.
Supermax did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Canada’s move to put on hold its contracts last year followed an import ban on Supermax by US Customs and Border Protection in October 2021.
US Customs cited reasonable information that it said indicated the use of forced labour in the Malaysian firm’s manufacturing operations.
‘Aware’ of US Actions
In November, the Canadian government said it was “aware of the steps taken recently by the US” against Supermax following the allegations of forced labour practices.
“Forced labour is a significant and unacceptable problem in global supply chains, and we take all allegations of such conduct very seriously,” Procurement Canada said at the time.
“The government of Canada is committed to ensuring that it does not do business with companies that employ unethical practices, either directly or within their supply chains.”
At the time, Supermax said it would speed up a process it had begun in 2019 to meet labour standards set by the International Labour Organisation.
Supermax has said it was in contact with the US agency to obtain more clarity and that it had commissioned an independent consulting firm to conduct an audit into the status of foreign workers at its factories.
Earlier this month, Supermax said it had introduced a new foreign worker management policy and enhanced its current human resources policies in light of the labour allegations.
• Reuters with additional editing by George Russell.