Andy Hall severing ties with VS Industry for backtracking on its promises

MIGRANT worker rights specialist Andy Hall has withdrawn his voluntary engagement with Johor-based electronics manufacturing services (EMS) outfit VS Industry Bhd with immediate effect barely three months into their joint collaboration.

The labour activist attributed his withdrawal to VS Industry’s failure to honour its previous commitments made publicly to Bursa Malaysia and “particularly by having unilaterally selected an auditor to conduct an independent third-party social compliance audit (concerning its irregular workers situation) without consultation with me”.

“Limited information on the audit methodology has been shared. VS has stated the full audit findings will not be shared with me,” Hall pointed out in a WhatsApp statement.

“In addition, VS stated that the audit will take three to four months and an unnamed independent labour rights expert and lawyer will supplement the audit methodology by PwC Consulting Associates (M) Sdn Bhd.”

He added: “I do not personally consider there is a need for three to four months of audit given the urgency of assessing the irregular worker’s situation. In addition, I consider there is no need to include local workers in the planned audit which has been expanded in scope by VS when the forced labour situation in question concerns only foreign workers.”

Andy Hall

Recall that a joint statement issued by VS Industry and Hall to Bursa Malaysia on Dec 20 last year stated that VS Industry would commission an independent third-party social compliance audit (concerning its irregular workers situation) by March 2022 with the findings to be shared transparently with Hall.

The joint statement also outlined that “the specifics and the nature of this third party shall be finalised by VS in liaison with Hall so that a joint agreement can be established”.

The VS Industry-Hall engagement was established after the former confirmed the presence of 963 irregular foreign workers from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan working at its various facilities.

The company had said it was committed to address this at risk situation urgently and collaboratively (with Hall).

“In 2021, I became aware of the alleged presence of a significant number of irregular and outsourced foreign workers in VS’ production facilities. I considered these workers – hired by irregular outsourcing agents and employers – may be at risk of living and working in forced labour situations,” Hall pointed out.

“Since March 2019, I understand that hiring of outsourced foreign workers in Malaysia is illegal.”

At 9.16am, VS Industry was up 1 sen or 0.91% to RM1.11 with 88,000 shares traded, thus valuing the company at RM4.25 bil. – March 3, 2022

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