Published on May 31st, 2021 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Goodyear Tire Facing Allegations Of Labor Abuse In Malaysia
Goodyear is Malaysia’s oldest tire producer and also the biggest.
In the local and foreign business news today, Malaysian based Goodyear tire factory is facing allegations of being an unfair employee. It seems that a number of foreign workers at the factory have filed a salary complaint with the Malaysian labor department. It all started two years ago in 2019 and the workers are from Nepal, Myanmar and India.
This news is being carried by dozens of local and regional news outlets and there was an exclusive interview with Reuters recently.
Goodyear Malaysia is one of the world’s top tire manufacturing company and has achieved excellent performance in both sales and technology. In October 1992, the company became the first Goodyear tyre plant to be certified for ISO 9002 standards, in 2002 it obtained the QS9000 and ISO14001 certifications followed by ISO / TS 16949 certification in 2003.
Meanwhile, Goodyear is by no means a struggling business as in February 2021, Goodyear Tire made a bid to buy out Cooper Tire for a healthy sum of USD2.5 Billion. The deal pushed the share prices of both companies up and it gives them both a better advantage in China.
Reuters Exclusive: American tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co (GT.O) is facing accusations of unpaid wages, unlawful overtime and threats to foreign workers at its Malaysian factory, according to court documents and complaints filed by workers.
In interviews with Reuters, six current and former foreign workers, and officials with Malaysia’s labor department, say Goodyear made wrongful salary deductions, required excessive hours and denied workers full access to their passports.
The department confirmed it had fined Goodyear in 2020 for overworking and underpaying foreign employees. One former worker said the company illegally kept his passport, showing Reuters an acknowledgement letter he signed in January 2020 upon getting it back eight years after he started working at Goodyear.
The allegations, which Reuters is the first to report, initially surfaced when 185 foreign workers filed three complaints against Goodyear Malaysia in the country’s industrial court, two in 2019 and one in 2020, over non-compliance with a collective labor agreement. The workers alleged the company was not giving them shift allowances, annual bonuses and pay increases even though these benefits were available to the local staff, who are represented by a labor union.
The court ruled in favor of the foreign workers in two of the cases last year, saying they were entitled to the same rights as Malaysian employees, according to copies of the judgment published on the court’s website. Goodyear was ordered to pay back wages and comply with the collective agreement, according to the judgment and the workers’ lawyer.
About 150 worker pay slips, which the lawyer said were submitted to the court as evidence of unpaid wages and reviewed by Reuters, showed some migrants working as many as 229 hours a month in overtime, exceeding the Malaysian limit of 104 hours.
The foreign workers are claiming about RM5 million (USD1.21 million) in unpaid wages, said their lawyer, Chandra Segaran Rajandran. The workers are from Nepal, Myanmar and India.
“They are put in a situation where they are being denied their full rights as what is provided for (by law),” he said, adding that it amounted to “discrimination”.
Goodyear, one of the world’s largest tire makers, has challenged both verdicts at the high court. The appeal decision is expected on July 26. The verdict for the third case, over the same issues, is due in the coming weeks.
Goodyear declined to comment on any of the allegations, citing the court process. According to the court ruling last year,Goodyear Malaysia argued that foreign workers are not entitled to the benefits of the collective agreement because they are not union members.
According to the ruling, a union representative testified that foreign workers are eligible to join and are entitled to the benefits in the collective agreement even if they are not members. The court agreed that the foreign workers’ job scope entitled them to those benefits.
Goodyear told Reuters it has strong policies and practices relating to and protecting human rights.
“We take seriously any allegations of improper behavior relating to our associates, operations and supply chain,” a representative said in an email.
The union – the National Union of Employees in Companies Manufacturing Rubber Products – did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the workers’ complaints.
Goodyear’s Malaysia operation is jointly owned by the country’s largest fund manager, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, which directed queries to Goodyear.
FINES AND VIOLATIONS
Workers said they faced intimidation from Goodyear after they filed the lawsuits. Goodyear declined to comment.
“The company had different rules for different sets of workers,” said Sharan Kumar Rai, who filed one of the lawsuits and worked at Goodyear in Malaysia from 2012 until last year.
The foreign workers filed the first two lawsuits in July 2019. Soon afterward, Goodyear asked some to sign letters, without their lawyer’s knowledge, that they would withdraw from the legal action, according to their lawyer, police complaints filed in October 2019 and a copy of the letter seen by Reuters. Reporting a complaint to police does not always result in criminal charges but can trigger an investigation.
Industrial court chairman Anna Ng Fui Choo said in her ruling that the letter “was an act of unfair labor practice”.
Malaysia’s labor department told Reuters it had investigated and charged Goodyear in 2020 over nine violations of labor laws, unrelated to the lawsuits, regarding excessive hours and wrongful salary deductions. It fined Goodyear RM41,500 (USD10,050), it said.
Malaysia has in recent years faced accusations from its own Human Resources Ministry and authorities in the United States of labor abuse at its factories, which rely on millions of migrant workers to manufacture everything from palm oil to medical gloves and iPhone components.
By Mei Mei Chu and A. Ananthalakshmi