Responding to the publication of the report: Forced Labour in the Malaysian Medical Gloves Supply Chain before and during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Evidence, Scale and Solutions, Dr Kitty Mohan, chair of the BMA’s international committee, said:
“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS relied on international supply chains more than ever before to meet increased demand. However, supplies should never come at the expense of human rights and safety of workers in the manufacturing process.
“These findings show that the use of medical gloves went up almost fourfold in England and Scotland during the pandemic. A different supply chain was set up in England to meet demand, with ’swifter than normal due diligence checks’ being made on suppliers. The pandemic brought recruitment challenges and under-staffing in Malaysia which in turn, increased pressure on local workers. Issues associated with restriction on movement, isolation, poor working and living conditions, and excessive overtime, all reportedly increased as a result.
“In our response to the report the BMA is calling on UK Governments to strengthen human rights due diligence in procurement and supply chains, both in policy and practice, and to demand greater transparency in the origin of medical products and the conditions they are made under. We also want UK Governments to consider termination clauses or financial or legal redress in contracts where failings are identified.
“There is still so much work to be done with regards to exploitation, poor working conditions and forced labour, and as the urgency of procurement diminishes and power shifts back to buyers and supplying intermediaries, these issues must be in the forefront of governments’ minds so that we can all pay our part in keeping our international community safe.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.