PETALING JAYA: The human resources ministry will investigate four contractors after reports of unethical labour practices at a solar panel factory in Kulim, Kedah, owned by an American firm.
In a statement, human resources minister V Sivakumar said four contractors appointed by top US solar panel maker First Solar had not met the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) standards.
“This includes recruitment practices that are unethical in both Malaysia and in their home countries, the retention of passports by employers, and the withholding of salary,” Sivakumar said.
He added that the labour department will conduct further investigations into all four contractors – which are involved in providing security, cleaning, building maintenance and warehousing – after it has obtained their names.
First Solar requires permission from its corporate office in the US to provide information about the four contractors, Sivakumar said.
In the statement, he added that First Solar has now made sure the foreign workers were paid their salaries and had their passports returned to them.
Sivakumar also said a reimbursement plan has been implemented with the help of RBA representatives to assist the contractors in reimbursing recruitment costs paid by the foreign workers in their home countries.
First Solar has also updated its service contracts and contractor payroll policies to prevent the recurrence of such unethical labour practices.
On Aug 16, the Arizona, US-based company said an audit of its manufacturing operations had uncovered unethical labour practices at its Malaysian factory, sending the company’s shares down by about 5%.