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M'sian condom giant faces hard allegations over bad labour practices

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Selangor-based condom manufacturer Karex had been implicated by a news report for alleged unfair treatment of its foreign labour.

According to an investigative piece by UK-based daily The Telegraph, the company had allegedly placed some of their Nepali and Bangladeshi workers in "cramped and undignified conditions".

It also claimed the company's foreign workers received low salaries with one of the workers interviewed saying that he could only make about RM1,026 a month after working eight hours a day, six days a week.

According to the Telegraph, they had interviewed 22 Nepali and Bangladeshi employees who worked at Karex's factories in Pontian, Senai and Port Klang all who told similar stories of their plight.

One employee identified as Mahesh Thapa said he left his two children in Kathmandu, Nepal to work at the largest condom-making 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.

He added 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. Mahesh is also in debt for borrowing money to pay recruiters who brought him to work with Karex.

The Telegraph 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 RM50 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."

“Sometimes poisonous snakes come in,” a Karex worker was quoted as saying by Telegraph.

File pix

The report also carried some other claims concerning the security and safety of Karex workers.

Improvements made

In response to these claims, Karex CEO Goh Mian Kiat told The Telegraph 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.

Malaysiakini has contacted Karex Bhd for their comments on the Telegraph's allegations.

In December last year, another UK press, The Guardian, had alleged that Malaysian glove giant, Top Glove, had 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.

Top Glove Corporation Bhd denied the allegations saying the company has abided by the Malaysian labour law and implemented strict measures to ensure that the overtime undertaken by its workers does not exceed the maximum limit permitted under the law.

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