UK High Court Rejects Alleged Forced Labour Claims by Migrant Workers Against Dyson – Comments by Andy Hall
Statement Attributable to Andy Hall, International Migrant Worker Rights Specialist, on the London High Court’s decision to reject jurisdiction in migrant worker’s forced labor-related claims against Dyson regarding alleged appalling work and living conditions at ATA IMS BHD in Malaysia.
A very disappointing judgement. Desperate migrant workers in Bangaldesh, Malaysia and Nepal had come to me in hope of achieving a remedy for their alleged forced labour conditions at ATA, when working on Dyson’s production lines.
They hoped, perhaps naively so, that the UK courts, in a country that indeed prides itself as a global leader in combatting and remediating modern slavery, would ensure their access to justice and a timely and adequate remedy, which they would clearly not achieve in Malaysia and by taking a case through the challenging Malaysian courts.
I personally am disappointed by the London High Court’s decision to reject jurisdiction to hear our vulnerable migrant worker’s forced labour claim against Dyson.
When taken alongside Dyson’s irresponsible disengagement from ATA on two occasions already since late 2021, this decision will have serious implications for 1000s of allegedly abused local and migrant workers employed both regularly and irregularly at ATA and it’s subsidiaries on Dyson’s own production lines.
In my personal opinion, Dyson has the moral and legal duty, in accordance with international standards on responsible business conduct also, to remediate fully and in a timely manner all workers that have worked in situations of alleged forced labour on their production lines at ATA and it’s subsidiaries, and that have suffered abuse or harm, including some who have alleged serious torture too. This is despite the disappointing decision by the High Court to rejected jurisdiction in the workers claim against the company in the UK.
But without a legal channel open for them in the UK to pursue their case against Dyson, given its irresponsible behavior in this case, and given the company’s premature decision to terminate their commercial relationship with ATA, already on two separate occasions, it seems unlikely these workers will now recieve any remedy at all for their suffering.
Responsible disengagement from local suppliers like ATA by international brands like Dyson should, according to international standards on responsible business conduct, be a last resort, and should only be undertaken alongside remediation for those who, through no fault of their own, have been abused or harmed or who will be negatively and unfairly impacted by such disengagement.
Disengagement from suppliers, done only to protect a brand’s reputation or financial well being, without regard for those that may be negatively impacted by such disengagement, is irresponsible disengagement.
I worked hard alongside Leigh Day and so many others in the hope that this claim would succeed as a precedent and could thereby contribute globally to ensuring brands and buyers, like Dyson, alongside investors and public procurers also, conduct more adequate due diligence to prevent modern slavery conditions, like was alleged here, from arising in their supply chains in the future.
The decision of the Court today however has perhaps now sent the opposite signal to workers in desperate need that companies like Dyson can escape responsibility by outsourcing their production to countries like Malaysia, with limited rule of law and systemic impunity for modern slavery, where abused and vulnerable workers stand little to no chance of accessing justice and remediation.
I hope the workers in this case, with their legal teams support, will appeal this disappointing judgement by the UK High Court. I will continue to support them in this worthwhile endeavor towards justice.
Dyson Kicks Forced Labor Factory Claim Out Of UK
Original link: law360 by Joanne Faulkner.
A London judge has prevented Malaysian workers from continuing their High Court claim that accuses British appliance maker Dyson of unjustly benefiting from forced labor in a factory, finding on Thursday that the claim did not have sufficient connection to England.
A High Court judge has agreed to stay the proceedings against two U.K. Dyson subsidies and to set aside an order serving Dyson Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd., the manufacturer’s Malaysian arm, into the English claim. (iStock.com/Robert Way)
Clive Sheldon KC, sitting a deputy High Court judge, agreed with Dyson that it was more favorable, on balance, to have the claim heard in the Malaysian courts. The judge agreed to stay the proceedings against two U.K. Dyson subsidies and to set aside an order serving Dyson Manufacturing Sdn. Bhd., the manufacturer’s Malaysian arm, into the English claim.
“The center of gravity in this case is Malaysia: that is where the primary underlying treatment about which the claimants complain took place,” the judge wrote.
The claim was seeking to hold the Dyson companies liable for the allegedly exploitative and abusive conditions in ATA IMS’ factories that manufactured parts for Dyson-branded goods. The claim, led by Leigh Day, alleged that workers in the factory were subjected to forced labor and other serious human rights abuses while manufacturing products for Dyson.
Dyson has stated that these workers were employed by ATA IMS rather than Dyson. ATA is a large, publicly listed Malaysian manufacturer that operates in the Asian country under national management. Dyson has since cut its ties with ATA.
“Leigh Day brought this legal action against the wrong company in the wrong jurisdiction,” a spokesperson for Dyson said Thursday.
“We welcome today’s judgment, which determines that this case should not be heard against Dyson in the English courts. The judge undertook a careful and thorough examination of the issues and decided that the claimants could and should access justice in Malaysia if they choose to continue the claim,” the spokesperson said.
Dyson is also suing Channel 4 News in the U.K. for libel over a story that alleged abuse at the former supplier’s factory in Malaysia.
Judge Sheldon said that the risk of fragmented proceedings and irreconcilable judgments favored having the case heard in England, but added that this did not tilt the balance.
“England is not the natural or appropriate forum and … Malaysia is another available forum which is clearly and distinctly more appropriate,” the judge wrote.
The claims involve areas of Malaysian law, which clearly favors having the case heard in Malaysia, the judge said. The issues in the case also took place in Malaysia.
“I consider that it is far more appropriate for these legal issues to be decided by Malaysian judges than English judges ruling, based on an analysis and evaluation of expert opinion, what Malaysian law would be,” the judgment reads.
Neither England nor Malaysia are practically convenient for all the parties and witnesses, so that argument was essentially a neutral one, the judge said. He also said that the risk that a Malaysian court would not allow remote hearings in this case was small.
Case documents are held in both England and Malaysia, the judgment reads. But “it seems most likely that the relevant documents will be obtainable” wherever a trial is held.
The judge also disagreed with the claimants’ arguments about whether lawyers in Malaysia would take up the claim and whether the action could be funded.
The claimant’s lawyers argued in documents submitted to court that the workers would be unable to take part in a trial in Malaysia in person — because of the risk of imprisonment if they did so — or remotely, due to lack of access because of extreme poverty or because the courts would not allow it.
Lawyers for the claimants did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.
Dyson is represented by Charles Gibson KC, Adam Heppinstall KC and Freya Foster of Henderson Chambers, instructed by Baker McKenzie.
The claimants are represented by Richard Hermer KC and Edward Craven of Matrix Chambers, instructed by Leigh Day.
The case is Dhan Kumar Limbu and others v. Dyson Technology Ltd. and others, case number QB-2022-001698, in the King’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales.
Full case judgement is here and file below: