The US has banned imports from YTY Industry Holdings, a Malaysian manufacturer of personal protective equipment (PPE), over suspected forced labour practices, the seventh such ban on a Malaysian company in two years.
The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency said on Friday it took the action “based on information that reasonably indicates the use of forced labour in YTY Group’s manufacturing operations”.
Malaysian factories, including some of the world’s major suppliers of palm oil and medical gloves, have come under increased scrutiny over suspected abuse of foreign workers, a significant part of the country’s manufacturing workforce.
YTY Group said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the ban, as it had made demonstrable progress since 2019 in improving its social compliance policies, particularly in its treatment of migrant workers.
The group said it had submitted an update to the CBP this month, informing that it had met compliance targets on all 11 International Labour Organization (ILO) indicators of forced labour.
“Despite the position the CBP has taken, we will redouble our efforts to engage with them,” YTY chief executive Vikram Hora said in a statement.
He said YTY would “not only demonstrate that our manufacturing operations are devoid of any and all forced labour practices, but [also] reaffirm ongoing social compliance advancements”.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Human Resources said on Sunday it would call in all companies facing US import bans over suspected forced labour practices to discuss immediate action to address the allegations.
CBP said it had identified seven of the ILO indicators during its investigation into YTY Group, including debt bondage, abusive working and living conditions and excessive overtime.
The agency also determined on Friday that Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation uses forced labour in their operations and that the company’s goods were subject to seizure.
Effective Friday, the agency will detain goods made in Malaysia by YTY Group and its units YTY Industry, Green Prospect and GP Lumut at all US ports of entry.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell