Malaysia to probe ATA over labour practices

Malaysia to probe ATA over labour practices

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia said on Friday that it will investigate British home appliance maker Dyson's decision to sever ties with ATA IMS over the Malaysian supplier's labour practices.

Dyson told Reuters on Thursday that it was ending its contract with ATA after an audit of the company's labour practices and allegations by a whistleblower.

Malaysia's Human Resources Minister M Saravanan said the government wanted to hear the reasons from both parties.

Dyson didn't want to keep the contract due to a worker shortage. There are two different stories, according to Saravanan, who said he was waiting to hear Dyson's side of the matter.

Malaysia has been under scrutiny over claims that migrant workers are subject to abusive working and living conditions, while ATA is already being investigated by the United States over forced labour allegations.

Saravanan said that he has received complaints about forced labour in Malaysia, particularly forcing workers into excessive hours due to labour shortages and the collection of recruitment fees by agents.

Dyson and ATA did not respond immediately to his comments.

ATA said on Friday it was taking seriously allegations of forced labour in an audit report from Dyson and allegations of physical abuse raised by a former worker.

As soon as it was notified of Dyson's audit, the manufacturer said it had appointed an unnamed firm of consultants to review and verify the findings and take any necessary steps.

A detailed report will be finalized soon, ATA said it has hired a law firm in Malaysia to conduct an independent review of the allegations of physical abuse by the former worker.

The preliminary findings of the independent law firm indicate that the allegations may be unjustified.

Former ATA worker Dhan Kumar Limbu told reporters that ATA officials took him to a police station in June where he was questioned about sharing information on conditions at the factory with activists and then beaten by police.

Limbu told Reuters he had told Dyson's lawyers that he had been involved in an interview.

The ATA said it is subject to regular audits and inspections of the working and living conditions of its workers.

It said that some of the inspections by government departments and the national human rights institution were on an ad hoc basis, and in none of these audits and inspections were issues of forced labour found in the company.

In interviews with Reuters, seven current and former ATA employees said they had worked overtime in excess of Malaysian law and paid recruitment fees in their home countries to labour brokers, a practice activists have criticised as a form of debt bondage.