Legal action is being taken by more than 12 Malaysia-based workers making components for Dyson over labour abuses by a local supplier.
A Channel 4 News investigation has found that workers employed at ATA Industrial, a division of ATA IMS, were forced to live in unsanitary and crowded accommodation with up to 80 people sharing a room. Many of them were allegedly refused annual leave and worked for over 18 months without taking a break of longer than a single day, according to Leigh Day which is representing the workers.
Oliver Holland, a partner at legal outfit Leigh Day, said they “lived under the constant threat of punishment and persecution by the factory management if they didn’t adhere to what they wanted them to do.”
The workers originally alerted SE Asia labour rights activist Andy Hall about working conditions making Dyson products leading to an investigation by US Customs and Border Protection.
Channel 4 News was told by Dyson that it did investigate Hall’s claims promptly and had conducted five audits of ATA, but no significant issues were found, and problems were quickly remedied.
Last June, a report about conditions at ATA appeared in a UK newspaper. Dyson denied the claims calling the report “false and defamatory” and subject to a legal complaint. But following the report ATA sought to identify the whistleblowers, some of whom had their mobile phones seized.
The workers are accusing Dyson of negligence, which it denies.
In November last year Dyson terminated its contract with ATA Industrial following the completion of Dyson’s independent audit carried out by Elevate. This had found issues around forced labour at ATA including excessive working hours, the non- repayment of recruitment fees and the employment of workers without valid visas.
One worker, Dhan Kumar Limbu, 32, travelled from Nepal to Malaysia and began working for ATA IMS in 2012. He alleges that he was tortured by police and threatened by ATA IMS senior management with imprisonment for a terrorism offence if he didn’t sign a false confession claiming he’d been paid to make claims against the company. He fled the factory last July and returned to Nepal – a journey paid for by Dyson after it investigated his story.
Labour MP Bill Esterson, who is also shadow minister for international trade, tweeted in response to the news: “Reports of forced labour in Dyson’s supply chain … are awful. Big companies have a massive responsibility to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains. Dyson has serious questions to answer.”