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BlackRock raps Top Glove board over worker safety

Asset manager remains concerned about firm's approach despite improvements in certain areas

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BlackRock highlighted that about a quarter of Top Glove's workforce were infected with Covid-19 last year. A whistleblower was also dismissed.

Singapore

BLACKROCK has criticised Top Glove's board for failing to see to the health and safety of workers living in the glovemaker's dormitories.

The asset manager voted against seven of the 12 resolutions tabled by Top Glove at its annual general meeting (AGM) convened on Wednesday, according to a Vote Bulletin published late Wednesday.

BlackRock voted against the re-election of six independent non-executive directors (INED).

It also voted against a separate resolution for senior independent director Lim Han Boon to continue in office as an INED.

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BlackRock also said it intends to hold other incumbent directors who were not on ballot at the AGM accountable by voting against their re-election at future shareholder meetings.

"Given Top Glove's role as a leading personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturer, 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," said BlackRock.

In a statement, BlackRock highlighted that more than 5,000 Top Glove workers - or a quarter of its workforce - were infected with Covid-19 last year.

A whistleblower who shared pictures of overcrowding and a lack of social distancing among workers was dismissed.

Although BlackRock acknowledged that Top Glove has improved workers' conditions and changed its whistleblowing processes, BlackRock remained concerned about the company's approach.

Top Glove is still on the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) watch list and faces pending investigations in both Malaysia and the United States.

Norges Bank Investment Management, another institutional shareholder of Top Glove, also voted against the same resolutions for the appointments of the directors.

In a press statement released late Thursday evening, Top Glove stressed that how its board functions at this time will be a critical factor in the group's continued implementation and improvement of remedial actions on safeguarding the safety and wellbeing of its employees.

The firm also reiterated its ongoing labour management efforts for both the short and mid term. These include its plans to spend RM100 million (S$33 million) for workers' facilities and accommodation in Klang and Banting in Selangor. Although Top Glove has yet to obtain possession of these properties, it said all relevant agreements have been signed, and the first block of the hostels is expected to be ready this year.

Top Glove also said there is stricter adherence to standard operating procedures in its factories which reopened on Dec 20, 2020.

All the resolutions tabled at Top Glove's AGM were, however, passed. The percentage of vote against the directors' appointments ranged from 13.5 per cent to 27.7 per cent.

Shares in Top Glove closed flat at S$1.90 on Thursday.

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