Dyson supplier launches investigation into abuse claims

1 December 2021

Household appliances firm Dyson has cut ties with Malaysian supplier ATA IMS over forced labour allegations.

Dyson said it planned to drop the supplier – which obtains more than 80% of its revenue from Dyson – in six months after an audit flagged potential labour abuses.

The audit also gave rise to allegations by a whistleblower of physical abuse of an employee.

Malaysian human resources minister M Saravan said the government was planning to take ATA IMS to court, according to Channel News Asia.

“Forced labour issues linked to local companies in the electronic and rubber gloves manufacturing sector, and palm oil plantations have projected a negative image to the country and this has affected foreign investors' confidence towards Malaysia's supply of products,” he said.

ATA IMS, which makes parts for Dyson’s vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, said it was taking the allegations seriously and conducted a regular system of audits of working and living conditions of workers.

The company has appointed a firm of consultants to review the findings and will take remediation steps if necessary. It said “the preliminary findings of the independent law firm [indicate] that the allegations may be unjustified”.

“As a contract manufacturer whose workers are the backbone of its business, the company places significant emphasis on the welfare, safety and security of its workers,” the firm said.

It said its policies included an existing anonymous whistleblowing hotline operated by third parties and a worker education programme.

“The company therefore takes a serious view of the allegations of forced labour practices mentioned in the summary of the audit that it has received, and the allegations of physical abuse made by the former ATA worker mentioned,” it said.

“The company will not hesitate to take stern disciplinary action against any person who is found to have breached its policies and/or committed acts against the welfare, safety and security of its workers.”

Dyson confirmed the company had terminated its relationship with ATA, giving six months notice.

This came after it asked the company to take action following an independent audit.

It also commissioned an international law firm to investigate after it was informed of a whistleblower making allegations about unacceptable actions by ATA staff, including an executive director.

An incident had allegedly taken place in June this year involving the director.

“We understand that an executive director of ATA has since been suspended, pending further investigations,” said Dyson.

“Despite intense engagement over the past six weeks, we have not seen sufficient progress and have already removed some production lines.

“We have now terminated our relationship with six months’ of contractual notice. We hope this gives ATA the impetus to improve, and enables an orderly withdrawal in the interests of the workers that they employ.”

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