KUALA LUMPUR: Labour rights groups have welcomed the positive measures being taken by Panasonic and Samsung to address alleged abuse of foreign migrants in their supply chains in Malaysia, according to The Guardian.
However, they said more concrete steps needed to be taken to ensure migrant workers are not exploited.
Panasonic, for instance, had organised a series of human rights seminars for its suppliers and established a confidential whistleblowers’ hotline to report alleged abuse, The Guardian reported.
It has also identified 15 companies in its supply chain where workers are at potential risk of abuse and is trying to ensure workers get adequate protection.
Samsung, for its part, has issued new guidelines to its suppliers, including a ban on recruitment fees and the retention of workers’ passports.
It also terminated the contract of the labour supply company identified in The Guardian report last year as being allegedly involved in the abuse.
The Guardian said Angela Sherwood, a migrants’ rights researcher at Amnesty International, was happy with the introduction of such policies and guidelines.
However, she raised questions about their implementation and enforcement, including whether they were acting decisively against suppliers who exploited workers.
“How do they protect and support exploited workers in their supply chains?” she was quoted as asking.
Golda Benjamin, Southeast Asia researcher for the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, also wants to see better safeguards introduced to protect migrant foreign workers.
The Guardian quoted her as saying: “The best brands engage with suppliers and work together to protect the people who make their products.”
Last November, The Guardian reported that workers making goods for both the global electronics brands were being exploited.
Its investigations found that Nepalese workers employed in the Panasonic and Samsung supply chains had been duped about their work and salaries. Their passports had been confiscated and they were deeply in debt after paying large sums to recruitment agents for the jobs.
The report said high recruitment fees left many of the tens of thousands of foreign migrant workers vulnerable to debt bondage and forced labour.
Meanwhile, Laurent Abadie, the CEO of Panasonic Europe, told The Guardian there might be thousands of subcontracted companies behind Panasonic’s 589 direct suppliers in Malaysia.
“It’s a complex and difficult issue to tackle because of the number of suppliers. It’s not all fine yet, but we are making progress. I think there is a general commitment. It is very complex. It’s a matter of education, awareness and persistence,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, NXP Semiconductors, a Dutch electronics manufacturer with a factory in Petaling Jaya won a “stop slavery” award in 2016 for its work in creating a supply chain free of exploitation, according to The Guardian.
The firm, it said, was recognised for policies designed to make anti-slavery “everyone’s business in the company”.
The report said NXP’s board of directors and the CEO himself signed off on all human trafficking policies.
Also, the company interviews foreign migrant workers before they depart. If it finds that they have paid recruitment fees, the money is refunded, and the recruitment agents in the country of origin are audited.