PETALING JAYA | A solar panel factory that is owned by an American firm in Kulim, Kedah will be investigated after reports of unethical labor practices, according to the human resources ministry.

Human resources minister, V Sivakumar said that the four contractors appointed by top US solar panel maker First Solar had not met the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) standard.

“This includes recruitment practices that are unethical in both Malaysia and their home countries, the retention of passports by employers, and the withholding of salary,” Sivakumar said.

He added that the labor department will conduct further investigations into four contractors—which are involved in providing security, cleaning, building maintenance, and warehousing.

First Solar requires permission from its corporate office in the US to provide information about the four contractors and has made sure foreign workers in the company were paid their salaries and had their passports returned to them, Sivakumar said.

Additionally, according to Sivakumar, a compensation process has been put into place with the assistance of RBA employees to help the contractors reimburse the foreign workers’ home nations for the recruitment costs they paid.

To stop the recurrence of such unethical labor practices, First Solar has amended its service agreements and contractor payroll regulations.