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Dyson, ATA Face Claims from Ex-Workers at Malaysian Supplier


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Former employees are seeking compensation from the home appliance maker over poor working and living conditions at ATA factories. The case follows a wave of labour disputes in Malaysia


ATA buildings in a Johor Bahru industrial park in Malaysia, 28 November 2021. Photo: Reuters.

 

Ten former workers from Dyson‘s biggest parts supplier, Malaysian firm ATA IMS, are claiming compensation from the home appliance maker over poor working and living conditions at ATA factories, a law firm representing them has said.

The ex-employees allege that “Dyson was unjustly enriched as a result of the unlawful, exploitative and dangerous conditions at the factory”, British law firm Leigh Day said in a statement on Friday.

A Dyson spokesperson told Reuters: “These allegations relate to employees of ATA, not Dyson. If proceedings were to be issued we would robustly defend them.”

The company said it takes its responsibilities towards workers employed by its third-party suppliers “extremely seriously”.

ATA, which makes parts for Dyson’s vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, did not have an immediate comment on the claim.

 

Long List of Disputes

The dispute is the latest in a wave of disputes relating to forced labour and labour standards involving migrant workers in Malaysia.

Dyson said in November it was severing relations with ATA, and ending its contract within six months, after an independent audit of the company’s labour practices and accusations by a whistleblower. Dyson has not disclosed the findings of its audit.

Leigh Day has sent a “letter before action” to Singapore-headquartered Dyson on behalf of the workers and named four company units as the defendants in the claim, it said. The letter is a notice that legal proceedings could be initiated.

“In the letter before action, sent by law firm Leigh Day on behalf of the workers, Dyson is asked to pay compensation to the workers. If a settlement cannot be reached the case will progress to the High Court,” Leigh Day said in the statement.

The letter was sent to Dyson on December 10, Oliver Holland, a partner at Leigh Day, said.

Holland said Leigh Day may initiate judicial proceedings in the High Court of Justice of England and Wales in March if Dyson does not engage in settlement talks.

He said Leigh Day is representing the workers on a “no win, no fee” basis.

 

‘Excessive hours’

In November and December there were reports that ATA’s mostly migrant workforce did overtime hours exceeding Malaysia’s legal limit of 104 hours a month, and worked on Sundays. In December it was alleged that ATA coached staff ahead of labour inspections to hide true working and living conditions, while employing foreigners without permits.

ATA acknowledged publicly on December 7 some violations, but said it had made some improvements and now complied with all regulations and standards.

In a statement on Friday, Dyson said it conducts frequent audits to monitor its supply chain and make improvements, and that it terminated its contract with ATA after the supplier failed to take swift action on a recent audit.

ATA was audited six times between 2019 and 2021, it said.

“During this period we demanded, and achieved, numerous improvements for ATA employees, including ensuring that more than 1,250 ATA workers had recruitment fees reimbursed to them on a point of principle,” it said.

“We received the results of the final inspection in October 2021, at which time it became clear to us that ATA management was not acting swiftly or vigorously enough to respond to Dyson’s demands for further improvements. We therefore moved quickly to terminate our relationship, with six months’ notice, enabling an orderly withdrawal.”

 

Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard

 

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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.

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