14 February, 2022A damning news report on British television is accusing well-known household appliances company Dyson of forced labour, false imprisonment and dangerous working conditions at one of their main supplier factories in Malaysia, ATA Industrial.
On 10 February, British Channel 4 News broadcast a report from a group of migrant workers in Malaysia, working in a factory producing mainly for Dyson. The migrant workers detailed that while employed at ATA Industrial, they had their passports taken away, effectively trapping them into work.
They were forced to work long hours, sometimes up to 18 hours a day including overtime. Workers were told that refusing overtime when ordered, would prevent them from any overtime in the future, which would make it impossible to live from their wages. Some days the workers earned less than US$10.
Many of the workers lived in unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions, where up to 80 people shared a room, and their movements were restricted by security guards.
Recruitment fees, poor living conditions, passport retention, excessive hours, enforced overtime, and restrictions on movement are all clear indicators of forced labour, as defined by the International Labour Organisation.
IndustriALL UK affiliate the Unite the Union is calling for reforms to the Dyson supply chain following allegations of the abuse of migrant workers at a factory in Malaysia that manufactures products for the well-known brand.
Unite’s international director Simon Dubbins says:
“Unite joins the international labour movement in demanding Dyson ensures that human and labour rights abuses do not occur in any part of the company’s supply chain. Independent trade unions must also be allowed across the company and its supply chains so workers’ rights are protected and consumers can be confident they are not buying products that are made at the misery of others.”
Ignoring long-running reports of abuse at ATA Industrial contradicts Dyson’s public claims of responsible sourcing. And when ending the contract with ATA Industrial in November last year over audit findings, Dyson did so without putting any remedies in place for the workers.
N. Gopal Kishnam, secretary of IndustriALL Malaysia Council and general secretary of National Union of Transport Equipment and Allied Industries Workers (NUTEAIW), says:
“The National Action Plan on Forced Labour must be implemented immediately to end all kinds of abuse. We call on the Malaysian government to thoroughly investigate the complaint and take action in accordance with the laws.”
Atle Høie, General Secretary of IndustriALL states:
“This case at Dyson shows that poorly constructed and executed audits are used to present a clean bill of health. Like at Dyson, we have seen many problematic audit cases in the supply chain that don’t reflect the reality. A credible audit includes workers’ voices.
“Dyson must ensure fundamental workers’ rights according to the international standards in its supply chain. The best way to avoid exploitation is to ensure that workers, including migrant workers, can exercise their right to organize and collective bargaining to improve wages and working conditions.”
Founded in the UK in 1993, Dyson moved its head office to Singapore in 2019. In 2007, Dyson closed its UK factory and moved manufacturing to Malaysia. ATA Industrial predominantly produces products for Dyson’s vacuum cleaner, lighting, haircare, heaters and fan ranges.
File photo of migrant women workers, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Credit: UN Women