KUALA LUMPUR (MALAYSIA) – After extensive outbreak of COVID cases from its factory, it was reported that Top Glove, the world’s largest maker of medical grade gloves, has failed in protecting its workers from contracting the infection. The report has prompted US investor BlackRok to call for its removal.
A BlackRock unit, BlackRock Institutional Trust Co, is the tenth biggest shareholder in Top Glove, holding 1.07% of its shares. The firms comments were the first public criticism of Top Glove from an investor since the virus outbreak among workers.
More than 5,000 foreign workers were infected and one died in what became Malaysia’s biggest cluster. Moreover, the company fired a whistleblower who raised concern about the firms lack of safety.
BlackRock cited workers’ accounts of working and living conditions, the firing of the whistleblower and the virus cluster at Top Glove in its criticism of the board. It also voted against re-electing six board members at Top Glove’s annual general meeting on Wednesday.
“We view the board’s ineffectiveness in COVID-19 mitigation and inadequate oversight of worker health and safety issues as especially egregious with potentially serious implications for its reputation as a supplier of such equipment to hospitals around the world,” BlackRock said in a statement late on Wednesday.
An influential Norwegian sovereign wealth fund, managed by Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), also voted against their re-election, according to voting records published by NBIM on its website.
The U.S. firm said it intended to hold other incumbent directors accountable by voting against their re-election at future meetings.
Two units of Top Glove was banned in the the United States, in July over forced labour allegations. Malaysian authorities plan to charge the company over poor worker accommodation.
BlackRock said the living conditions described by the workers, U.S. and Malaysian authorities were in “stark contrast” to what the board conveyed to shareholders.
Top Glove’s factories, some of which were closed due to the virus outbreak, reopened last month.