Sydney, 25 August, 2020: While the COVID-19 pandemic has buoyed Australian manufacturing company Ansell, which announced a jump in profits today, it has apparently also halted the company's third-party auditing processes, which flag instances of modern slavery.
There are serious questions outstanding about the modern slavery in Ansell's operations and supply chains, which was referenced in Ansell's Annual Report, today.
Ansell states its third-party auditing has been impeded during FY20 due to COVID-19, and audits have been delayed at Ansell manufacturing sites. Previous audits of ten sites have identified 'non-conformances including the payment of recruitment fees.' Today, Ansell admitted to repaying recruitment fees for workers in its glove manufacturing business, although provided no specific detail on this.
Recruitment agencies, contracted by suppliers, may charge fees to potential migrant workers, putting these workers in debt bondage. UK Channel 4's recent investigation of modern slavery at Top Glove found workers were paying up to USD 5,000 US to recruitment agents in their home countries.
Historically, as major suppliers of Ansell, Malaysia-based companies Top Glove and WRP, have been the subject of damning media investigations over the last year, as well as United States Customs and Border Protection Department (CBP) import bans, due to evidence of extreme labour exploitation in their operations.
While Ansell did not name specific suppliers in its reporting today, it made several oblique references to labour exploitation in its supply chain of 'finished goods suppliers in Malaysia', and noted it had 'not walked away from these suppliers'.
ACCR's Director of Workers' Rights, Dr Katie Hepworth, commented:
"While Ansell is raking in the cash because of unprecedented global demand for PPE, serious concerns remain around the existence of forced labour and modern slavery in the company's supply chains.
“Ansell must adopt an approach to supply chain due diligence that will give customers and investors confidence that their supply chains are free from modern slavery and labour exploitation.
“Investors must interrogate Ansell about how they intend to conduct proper due diligence of their PPE supply chains in the absence of third party audits.
"The intensification of workloads to meet global demand for protective equipment will only increase the risk, with numerous reports of workers compelled to work long hours, without breaks, in breach of global conventions.”