FMT 30th August 2023: Government to probe unethical labour practices at US firm’s factory in Kedah
Unethical Migrant Worker Practices in Malaysia – Comments by Andy Hall
The kind of unethical migrant worker recruitment practices allegedly found at First Solar are in no way exceptional. It is the norm in Malaysia for highly vulnerable migrant workers to be indebted by the time they arrive in the country, in most industries including in the solar industry, at a time when recruitment costs for these migrants coming into Malaysia have actually doubled and in some cases tripled since the beginning of the Anwar administration. The forced labour risks associated with doing business in Malaysia, with some notable exceptions, are at this time now higher than ever before.
See related articles at: New York Times 15th Aug 2023: Solar Company Says Audit Finds Forced Labor in Malaysian Factory.
30th August 2023: Migrant Workers Providing Security, Cleaning Building Maintenance and Warehousing Services
The four contractors to be investigated are involved in providing security, cleaning, building maintenance and warehousing services.
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,”Human Resources Minister V Sivakumar
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%.