"Hardly a major brand name" doing business in Malaysia is untainted by the use of forced labor from trafficked workers, according to a study backed by the US Department of Labor.
The trafficked workers follow deceptive ads at home, pay brokers to get them jobs in Malaysia, have their passports seized, and larded with bogus "debts" that effectively indenture them to their employers, and are forced into unpaid, punishing hours.
Particularly crippling are the fees paid to brokers to obtain the overseas work. More than nine out of 10 workers surveyed said they paid such fees, and three out of four said they borrowed money to do so. More than half said it took more than a year of work -- in a standard two-year contract -- to clear the debt, and the vast majority couldn't leave Malaysia until it was paid.
Many of the factories were operated by subcontractors or suppliers to major brand-name companies, although Verité didn't name the companies.
"Any and all companies sourcing from Malaysia should audit their supply chain," said Viederman.
He said companies should amend their codes of conduct for suppliers to ban the payment of fees to brokers and ensure workers are allowed to keep their identity documents when they arrive.
Use of forced labor 'systemic' in Malaysian IT manufacturing [Martyn Williams/IDG]
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