MARGMA works to resolve debt bondage recruitment policy in rubber glove industry

The association decides all recruitment going forward will be done on a zero-recruitment fee basis 

by AUFA MARDHIAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Malaysian Rubber Glove Manufacturers Association (MARGMA) is working towards resolving the long-standing debt bondage recruitment policy which charges exorbitant fees to foreign workers seeking jobs in the industry. 

President Dr Supramaniam Shanmugam said its members are focused on the remediation fees to free foreign workers from debts, upgrade of hostels for local and foreign workers, minimum wage to improve workers livelihood, Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit audit and self-regulation via code of conduct. 

Answering on the remediation issue, Supramaniam said MARGMA and its members are helping to free their foreign workers from their debts via the Remediation Fees programme as an immediate remedy. 

“We checked with all our workers and we found out the average amount of money each one of them owe and help them pay for it to ensure the workers are in a debt-free environment. As part of the EGM in 2019 — we decided all recruitment going forward will be done on a zero-recruitment fee basis — we will check with the agent on how much they legitimately charged and we will pay the amount of money to the agent. 

“We handled it two ways; how we manage the past is through debt bondage and how we manage the future going forward is through zero-recruitment fees,” he said in the Industry Brief 2022 hybrid session yesterday. 

MARGMA is also supportive of the RM1,500 minimum wage announced by the government. The increase of minimum wage from RM1,200 to RM1,500 is a significant increase of 25% over the current minimum wage and MARGMA estimates that the 25% increase in minimum wage will result in an overall increase in production costs between 1.42% to 2.75% depending on the profile of the workers in each respective factory. 

“The industry itself has been paying more than RM1,500; we have been profitable and we need workers. Going forward, we told ourselves that this is something we can easily take on but obviously we need to look at the national agenda. 

“The only thing we hope is in the future, if there is any more increase in minimum wage, we seek the government to do it on a staggered basis so that we do it in stages to bring them up to a higher level,” added Supramaniam. 

He added the industry is willing to pay more for local workers, however, the response received is very 

different compared to the foreign worker due to local workers preferring to work in a more comfortable environment. 

“We understand the situation why locals are reluctant to join. The way forward is to entice them by some degree of training so in the next quarter we are expecting to launch together with the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities and Malaysian Rubber Council to develop local training programmes where we take in the school leavers who are ready to work and put them in an on-the-job training programme and give them certificate to certify them,” he said. 

The Malaysian Rubber Glove Industry will need 272,000 workers as opposed to the 70,000 workers currently employed which is almost four times the number of workers. 

Based on the latest survey carried out in October/November 2021, MARGMA found out that the Rubber Glove Industry currently employs 69,218 employees with 18,730 vacancies consisting of 43% Malaysians and 57% foreigners (only 1.7% documented and undocumented foreign workers). 

He added that Malaysia’s rubber glove production is expected to expand by 15% in 2022 based on the forecast revision by the association on Dec 4, 2021, Malaysia is expected to supply 65% of the global supply, or 294 billion gloves, this year, followed by China (20%), Thailand (10%) and Indonesia (3%). 

He added global demand for rubber gloves for the year to be at 452 billion units, or 14,333 gloves used every second. 

“We are optimistic that demand will continue to grow as the industry innovates new types of gloves for the use of the food and beverages industry in handling food items, and the semiconductor sector to better protect electrical and electronic components from contamination,” he said.