KUALA LUMPUR: Household appliance manufacturer Dyson says the 10 former workers taking legal action against the company in the United Kingdom are employees of its biggest parts supplier, Malaysian firm ATA IMS Bhd.
A Dyson spokesman 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 took 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.
Reuters reported a law firm representing the workers as saying yesterday that they were claiming compensation from the home appliance maker over poor working and living conditions at ATA factories.
The former 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.
Dyson had said in November that it was severing relations with ATA, and ending its contract within six months, following an independent audit of its supplier’s labour practices and accusations by a whistleblower.
In a statement to Reuters yesterday, Dyson further said it conducted 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 added.
“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 the 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.”
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 Dec 10, according to Oliver Holland, a partner at Leigh Day.
Holland told Reuters that 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.
Reuters reported on Nov 25 and Dec 5 that ATA’s mostly migrant workforce did overtime hours exceeding Malaysia’s legal limit of 104 hours per month, and worked on Sundays as well.
Citing 11 employees, Reuters also reported on Dec 5 that ATA had coached staff ahead of labour inspections to hide true working and living conditions, and employed foreigners without permits.
ATA acknowledged publicly on Dec 7 some violations, and said it had made some improvements and now complies with all regulations and standards.