Dyson splits with Malaysia supplier, stoking concern over migrant worker treatment By Reuters


© Reuters. A safety guard stands close to the gate of Dyson workplace in Senai, Johor State, Malaysia, November 28, 2021. Picture taken November 26, 2021. REUTERS/A. Ananthalakshmi


By A. Ananthalakshmi and Liz Lee

JOHOR BAHRU, Malaysia(Reuters) – A brief drive throughout the border from Dyson’s new headquarters in Singapore is the boomtown constructed round its enterprise: a Malaysian industrial space dominated by its greatest provider, ATA IMS Bhd.


ATA, one in every of Malaysia’s high electronics manufacturing companies suppliers, rode Dyson’s success in high-end vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, supplying elements for a corporation that got here to account for 80% of its income.

Ten present and former staff, and a former ATA government, say the expansion got here at an unseen price: its largely migrant work pressure labored as much as 15 hours a day, had been typically requested to skip relaxation days to maintain up with demand, and had been coached to cover true working and dwelling circumstances from labour inspectors and Dyson.

In interviews over the final two months, the staff additionally say ATA, which analysts say is Dyson’s greatest world contract producer, employed 1000’s of foreigners with out work permits.

After questions from Reuters on Nov. 18, Dyson final month mentioned it might pull its enterprise from ATA in six months, citing a latest unbiased audit on circumstances for staff and allegations by an unidentified whistleblower.


ATA mentioned in a press release it was audited by the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), a physique extensively engaged by electronics companies to conduct manufacturing facility audits. RBA hires third-party auditors for the inspections. It declined to remark.

On Nov. 29, ATA mentioned it had seen the abstract of Dyson’s audit, which discovered poor dwelling circumstances, considerations of retaliation and unpaid allowances, amongst different points. It described the findings as “non-conclusive” and mentioned it was reviewing them. Reuters has not seen the audit.

ATA declined to remark, and referred Reuters to its latest public statements.

Dyson mentioned on Tuesday it would not remark as a result of the accusations associated to ATA.


Malaysia on Wednesday mentioned it might cost ATA over complaints it had obtained by means of the labour division. It didn’t say what the costs or complaints had been about or whether or not they associated to the employees’ accusations about its Dyson factories.

The nation’s human sources minister, M. Saravanan, mentioned pressured labour allegations at Malaysian corporations had been hurting overseas traders’ confidence in merchandise manufactured there. He had earlier mentioned the federal government was investigating Dyson’s determination to separate with ATA.

After Dyson’s transfer, ATA shares dropped 60%. Some analysts have raised doubts about ATA’s capacity to draw new prospects, and on Nov. 29 a press release from the agency forecast income declines and value cuts.

With Dyson’s departure, six staff and shopkeepers interviewed within the Johor Bahru industrial space mentioned they feared they could lose their livelihoods.

“There isn’t any assure of a job right here anymore,” mentioned one off-duty ATA worker, sporting his royal-blue manufacturing facility work shirt on a latest Sunday. Like others, he requested to not be recognized for worry of reprisal.

ATA formally employs round 8,000 staff, though 4 ATA staff and the previous government estimated its workforce had been as excessive as 17,000 till not too long ago, together with these with out permits. Most of 17,000 had been from Bangladesh and Nepal, in accordance with the employees and government.


ATA’s factories are concentrated in adjoining industrial parks in suburban Johor Bahru, a 30-minute drive to Singapore, the place Dyson is headquartered.

ATA posted file income of 4.2 billion ringgit ($991.74 million) for the fiscal 12 months that resulted in March. Dyson, owned by British billionaire James Dyson, accounted for practically $800 million of that.

Analysts say the elevated scrutiny of Malaysia may improve manufacturing prices and deter traders. The United States has banned six Malaysian companies within the final two years over accusations of pressured labour.

“Cost will certainly transfer up as a result of much more care needs to be taken under consideration, not simply on recruitment but additionally worker lodging. The ramifications are considerably larger prices for labour,” mentioned Vincent Khoo, head of Malaysia analysis at brokerage UOB Kay Hian.

Malaysia, which makes the whole lot from iPhone parts to semiconductors, is reliant on electrical and electronics manufacturing specifically for exports and financial development. Between January and October 2021, such merchandise accounted for 36% of complete exports.

Foreigners make up about 10% – 1.48 million – of Malaysia’s work pressure, in accordance with authorities information, although that share is larger within the manufacturing sector. The authorities and labour teams estimate hundreds of thousands extra undocumented migrants.


Until not too long ago, audits of ATA had not revealed any points, in accordance with ATA and Dyson. A 2020 audit gave ATA an ideal rating on working circumstances, ATA mentioned in May. Dyson didn’t verify that rating.

The staff advised Reuters that ATA supervisors coached manufacturing facility workers on what to inform auditors. Two mentioned supervisors advised them that in the event that they advised the reality about working circumstances, Dyson would minimize its orders with ATA.

In July, an ATA supervisor instructed staff in a WhatsApp group to inform auditors they didn’t work on Sundays and labored not more than three hours of time beyond regulation per day. The supervisor has not responded to repeated calls from Reuters. According to staff and payslips seen by Reuters, staff often labored Sundays and as much as six hours of time beyond regulation.

“We want your cooperation… Please temporary all the worker… to keep away from subject throughout audit,” learn the message, dated July 2 and seen by Reuters.

Employees additionally mentioned the plant had been cleaned and security gear distributed forward of audits, and that staff with out permits had been requested to remain away.

When Dyson officers visited, ATA stopped Sunday work and reduce on time beyond regulation, the staff mentioned. ATA and Dyson declined to remark.


The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) opened an investigation into ATA in April over unethical recruitment practices and poor working and dwelling circumstances, in accordance with unbiased labour rights activist Andy Hall, who sought the inquiry. He confirmed Reuters a letter dated April 19 from the company informing him of the investigation. CBP declined to remark.

Nepalese nationwide Dhan Kumar Limbu, 32, mentioned individuals working with Hall contacted him in April as a part of his investigation into ATA, and Limbu mentioned he shared particulars about working and dwelling circumstances with them. Hall confirmed Limbu’s account.

Limbu mentioned that in June, ATA officers took him to a police station, the place he was questioned about sharing info with activists, then crushed by police. He fled Malaysia and is now again in Nepal. Limbu advised Reuters he advised Dyson’s legal professionals in regards to the ATA working circumstances in an interview on Oct. 1.

Dyson didn’t determine the whistleblower by title however mentioned in a press release to Reuters final month that “We instantly commissioned a world legislation agency to undertake a full investigation and offered the whistle-blower with assist that enabled them to help with the investigation.” Dyson didn’t say which agency it had retained.

ATA additionally employed a legislation agency to evaluation Limbu’s claims and mentioned in a press release final week that preliminary findings point out “the allegations could also be unjustified.” The police have mentioned they’re investigating whether or not officers beat Limbu.

Employees mentioned ATA began to make some modifications for the reason that accusations got here to mild in May, when it first publicly denied the allegations. The firm reimbursed some staff 7,000 ringgit in July for what they paid labour brokers of their residence international locations, in accordance with Limbu, different staff and payslips seen by Reuters.

ATA additionally stopped using overseas staff with out permits and closed a crowded dorm that had housed 60 individuals to a room, staff mentioned.

Limbu and different staff Reuters interviewed mentioned Dyson ought to have stayed to make sure working and dwelling circumstances improved for migrant staff.

“My intention to share info was to enhance circumstances for the employees and get relaxation days. But now with Dyson’s determination, individuals will lose jobs,” Limbu mentioned.

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