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Malaysian companies going through US bans on compelled labor have been subpoenaed by the ministry

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©Reuters. A general view of Sime Darby Plantation's headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia's Human Resources Ministry said on Sunday it would invite all companies facing US import bans over alleged forced labor practices to discuss immediate action to combat the allegations.

Malaysian factories, which include major suppliers of palm oil and medical gloves, have come under heightened scrutiny over allegations of abusing migrant workers, who make up a significant portion of the country's manufacturing workforce.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said Friday it would ban imports of disposable glove maker YTY Group over information suggesting the company used forced labor, the seventh such ban for a Malaysian company in two years.

The agency also found that Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation Bhd used forced labor in its operations and that the company's goods were confiscated.

Malaysian Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan said Sunday he would meet with all firms facing import bans in the United States, as well as two glove makers – WRP Asia Pacific and Top Glove Corp. – whose bans have been lifted by the CBP.

"The approaches implemented by these two companies can be used as guidelines and improvements for other companies," Saravanan said in a statement.

Saravanan said he had also ordered an immediate investigation into the allegations by the Department of Human Resources and the Department of Labour, and warned of tough action being taken against companies that failed to improve their practices.

The minister acknowledged that allegations of forced labor against Malaysian firms had hurt investor confidence in the country.

Malaysia last year announced a National Action Plan on Forced Labor to eliminate abusive practices such as debt bondage, unsanitary worker dormitories and excessive overtime by 2030.

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