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Government ignored internal warnings over PPE suppliers accused of modern slavery

Samuel Lovett – The Independent

Synopsis:

My article, published in The Independent, was the result of a three-month investigation into the UK’s links with the Malaysian glove factory. I spoke with a wide variety of sources in Whitehall, the NHS supply chain and human rights field to put together the story. I obtained certain leaked material through my contacts and was able to show that the government had overlooked internal warnings raised against a number of Malaysian glove companies which have been accused of modern slavery and labour abuses. Despite this, the government entered into business with these firms during the global rush to obtain PPE at the height of the pandemic.

The report formed part of my wider coverage as a global health correspondent at The Independent. Much of my reporting has closely followed the challenges facing the Global South in terms of access to the Covid-19 vaccines. I’ve also highlighted the impact of the pandemic on the world’s refugees and other vulnerable populations. Please see below for my supporting articles:

Impact:

In response to my report, the government said the Department of Health and Social Care had asked all glove suppliers to undertake a modern slavery assessment, and that those companies found to be in breach of the NHS’s Labour Standards Assurance System (LSAS) – which seeks to ensure good work practices among suppliers – would be removed from the UK’s supply chain framework. This will have helped to apply pressure on the Malaysian firms in improving labour standards within their factories. I also understand that Charles Hay, the UK high commissioner to Malaysia, has since met with a number of the companies identified in my piece to assess whether they are complying with labour regulations. This review is set to be published early in 2021.

The article led the front page of The Independent’s Sunday digital edition earlier this month and was read by just over 105,000 people on the website.

My work fits into a much larger trend of reporting throughout 2020 that has shed a light on the labour abuses within the Malaysian glove manufacturing industry. Here are some of the outcomes to emerge this year:

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