First Solar unveils unethical recruitment in Malaysia manufacturing facility

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Worker-paid recruitment fees and unlawful retention of wages are some of the issues identified in its Malaysian manufacturing facility. Image: First Solar.

US thin-film solar PV manufacturer First Solar has disclosed unethical labour practices at its factory in Malaysia.

In its latest sustainability report, First Solar said four onsite service providers in Malaysia had employed foreign migrant workers who were subjected to unethical recruitment, including worker-paid recruitment fees, unlawful retention of wages, passport retention for safekeeping, employment terms not communicated in native language, and inadequate management system and policy.

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In response to these behaviours, the management of the company said the service providers had returned all passports and unlawfully retained wages to the workers and updated their policies to prevent future fees. First Solar is working with its onsite service providers to ensure the recruitment fees are reimbursed to their current and former employees.

Other findings at its manufacturing facility in Malaysia included working hours exceeding 60 hours per week due to voluntary overtime. After knowing the situation, First Solar tracked weekly hours of work to ensure that hours worked in a workweek did not exceed 60 hours. It also ensured at least one day
off in every seven days of work.

“We highlight this information openly, not only because of our commitment to transparency and responsible solar, but also to raise awareness of modern slavery risks that hide in plain sight and to illustrate the value of an independent third-party social audit conducted in a credible, comprehensive
manner,” said First Solar CEO Mark Widmar.

According to the sustainability report, First Solar deliberately chose a credible independent third-party audit programme with a track record of being applied across various industries.

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