More than a dozen migrant workers are suing Dyson over claims of forced labour at one of its suppliers’ factories in Malaysia.
Dyson’s billionaire chairman and founder, Sir James Dyson, relocated his company’s manufacturing base from the UK to Malaysia in 2002. Since 2013, ATA industrial (ATA) has supplied Dyson with millions of electronic components and parts. 
Migrant workers, mainly hailing from Nepal and Bangladesh, claim that they have been subjected to intimidation, extortion, debt bondage, and unlawful living conditions whilst working for ATA.
The plaintiffs are suing in England, although the case is currently in the pre-action stage.
Complaints detailing unlawful working conditions in the ATA factory were raised as early as November 2019.
However, between November 2019 and October 2021 Dyson conducted six audits of ATA, and reported no significant findings until a final in-depth audit was carried out by an independent company. This audit identified major incidents of forced labour - including excessive working hours, the non-repayment of recruitment fees, and the employment of migrant workers without valid visas.
Dyson are accused of a delayed and inadequate response to complaints that date back three years. It is asserted that the five audits carried out between 2019 and 2021 were not effective in identifying or remedying serious incidents of forced labour.
Dyson terminated its contract with ATA in October 2021, with six months’ notice to enable an orderly withdrawal.
Since then, ATA have been accused of identifying and mistreating whistle-blowers. Dhan Kumar Limbu, a Nepalese migrant worker, alleged to Channel 4 News that he was interrogated and tortured by police officers over a testimonial against his employer. 
The termination of this contract is a significant blow to the credibility of Malaysia, a country that has faced scrutiny in recent years over widespread claims of forced labour in its rubber and personal protective equipment industries (see RightsDD’s past stories here). 
To date, none of Dyson’s audit reports have been made public. While there are good reasons for keeping such reports confidential, the perceived lack of transparency could prove detrimental to their image.
This lawsuit is a reminder that audits, which are occasional and only last a few days, have severe limitations. There are concerns about their effectiveness in detecting abuses like forced labour.
Companies should not rely on audits alone to check whether their suppliers are meeting their codes of conduct. Audits should be supplemented by ongoing monitoring of adverse media and regular engagement of suppliers and their workers.
 The Edge Markets
 Channel 4