Dyson, the global home electronics designer and manufacturer, could struggle to hire up to 2000 new recruits following claims of labour abuse in its manufacturing supply chain.
Following a Channel 4 news report (see video report and lawsuit highlights below), socially conscious engineers and digital experts could question whether the company’s working practices and the founder James Dyson’s feelings towards home-based working live up to the modern-day work-life balance.
Despite the glossy veneer and collaborative nature of Dyson’s UK and Singapore operations, manufacturing facilities outside of these locations could prove to tarnish Dyson’s ESG reputation with applicants.
Why is Dyson on a record hiring spree?
- Dyson is looking to hire 2,000 people in 2022 to contribute to the development of radical new technologies. While one of its bagless hoovers may have requred just 5 engineers to develop, its next generation of products could require hundreds.
- In 2022, Dyson will expand its teams across Malaysia and the Philippines with 300 new roles.
- The roles, of which 900 are in the UK, will span all levels and will work in teams including Electronics, Acoustics, Design engineering, Machine learning, Software, Data connectivity, Robotics and Materials.
- The buildings on Dyson’s UK campuses, most designed by the late Chris Wilkinson, provide a “specially conceived” space for engineers and scientists to collaborate on new technologies and research in the most advanced labs.
- Inside converted hangars and secure mirrored buildings overlooking the Wiltshire countryside, Dyson offices house state-of-the-art equipment, laboratories, testing facilities and workspaces for its employees to experiment.
- The UK-based employee and gradudate living and working conditions conditions are in stark contrast to those of factory owned by ATA Industrial, in Johor, Malaysia where many Dyson products were made before Dyson dropped the supplier after a news report came out of the worker abuse claims there.
- According to law firm Leigh Day, which is representing ATA workers, Dyson was made aware of the poor working and living conditons and low daily wages more than a year before an audit report materialised. Channel 4 at the time of their televised news report, were not provided the findings of the audit report despite repeated requests.
- Dyson severed its contract with supplier ATA over labour concerns but only after a news report came out outlining worker reports of labour abuses (Reuters).
- Johor is just over the Singapore/Malaysia border, where wages and cost of living are much lower than Singapore, where Dyson has its global headquarters.
- “International companies who headquarter themselves in Singapore can also see corporation tax (currently 17%, compared with 19% in the UK) fall to 5% or even 0%, thanks to lengthy tax breaks and generous incentives for those who create jobs (Business Leader).There are no capital gains or inheritance tax in Singapore, while in the UK inheritance tax is charged at 40% on anything above £450,000.”
Beyond the labs, the UK campus also offers:
- Six cafes serving free food made with Dyson Farming produce and free coffee and tea
- Free gym and gym classes
- Free professional hair salon
- Free employee transport to campus from nearby towns and cities, and support for purchasing electric vehicles
- Multiple outdoor nature trails around Wiltshire countryside
- Wellbeing centre – including a GP and Physiotherapist.
- Clubs and societies run by Dyson people: from gardening club’s on campus allotments, to cycling club’s annual Tour De Dyson event
- Summer and Christmas parties – “hotly anticipated dates in the Dyson diary where teams create inventive costumes.”
Labour abuse claims: Dyson labour audit report not made public
A group of migrant workers who worked in a factory in Malaysia that predominantly manufactured products for Dyson have launched legal claims against Dyson relating to allegations of extensive violations of their legal rights. The workers have claimed that the working conditions included forced labour, physical and psychological injuries, false imprisonment, cruel and degrading treatment and exposure to extremely hazardous working conditions, according to UK law firm and employment specialists Leigh Day.
The claimants all worked at a factory owned by ATA Industrial, in Johor, Malaysia where many Dyson products were made. The employees detail in their letter before action to Dyson, which is sent in advance of formal proceedings being issued and is the first step in legal proceedings, that they travelled from Nepal and Bangladesh to work in the factory and all paid a recruitment fee and were paid below minimum wage, sometimes earning less than $10 per day.
According to Leigh Day:
- They allege in their legal case that they all had their passports retained for the duration of their employment, making it impossible to find other work so they were trapped working at the ATA factory.
- Many lived in unsanitary and overcrowded living conditions of up to 80 people per room and their movements were restricted by security guards.
- The plight of some of the workers has been detailed in a Channel 4 News investigation aired on 10 February.
- The minimum daily shift for the claimants was for 12 hours but they argue in their legal claim that all were forced to work overtime with shifts as long as 18 hours. If they refused to work overtime when ordered to, they say they would be prevented from working any overtime in the future which made it impossible to live from their wages.
- Many of them were allegedly refused annual leave and worked for over 18 months without taking a break of longer than a single day. They lived under constant fear that they would be punished if they did not obey the orders of the management.
- On 25 November 2021 it was reported that Dyson had ended its contract with ATA Industrial due to audit findings. However, the former workers allege in their legal case that Dyson had known about the unlawful conditions since at least November 2019 when they were notified by whistle blower Andy Hall.
- Additionally, they argue that the exploitation and dangerous working conditions faced by migrant workers in Malaysian factories has been widely reported over the last 10 years and therefore is something that Dyson should have been aware of.