U.S. tire maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. faces charges of unpaid wages, illegal overtime and threats to foreign workers at the Malaysian factory, according to court documents and complaints filed by workers.
In interviews with Reuters, six current and former foreign workers, as well as Malaysian labor department officials, say Goodyear made unjustified wage deductions, required excessive hours, and denied workers full access to their passports.
The department confirmed that it had imposed a fine on Goodyear in 2020 for overwork and underpaid foreign employees. A former worker said the company kept the passport illegally, showing Reuters a letter of recognition he signed in January 2020 when he recovered it eight years after he started working at Goodyear.
The complaints, which Reuters is the first to report, initially arose when 185 foreign workers filed three complaints against Goodyear Malaysia in the country’s industrial court, two in 2019 and one in 2020, for breach of a collective bargaining agreement. . The workers alleged that the company did not give them shift bonuses, annual bonuses and salary increases, even though these benefits were available to local staff, represented by a 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 ruling posted on the court’s website. According to the ruling and the workers’ lawyer, Goodyear was ordered to pay wages and comply with the collective agreement.
About 150 payrolls of workers, which the lawyer said were presented to the court as evidence of unpaid wages and reviewed by Reuters, showed some migrants working up to 229 hours a month in overtime, exceeding the Malaysia limit of 104 hours.
Foreign workers are claiming about 5 million ringgit ($ 1.21 million) in unpaid wages, said their lawyer, Chandra Segaran Rajandran. The workers are from Nepal, Myanmar and India.
“It puts them in a situation where they are denied all rights under what (the law) provides,” he said, adding that it amounted to “discrimination”.
Goodyear, one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, has challenged the two verdicts in high court. The appeal decision is expected on July 26. The verdict in the third case, on the same issues, will have to be published in the coming weeks.
Goodyear declined to comment on any of the allegations, citing the lawsuit. 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 members of a union.
According to the ruling, a union representative stated that foreign workers have the right to join and are entitled to benefits from the collective agreement even if they are not members. The court agreed that the employment scope of foreign workers gave them the right to these benefits.
Goodyear told Reuters that it has strong policies and practices related to and protecting human rights.
“We take allegations of misconduct related to our partners, operations and supply chain seriously,” a representative said in an email.
The union, the National Union of Employees of Rubber Product Manufacturing Companies, did not respond to Reuters ‘requests for workers’ complaints.
Goodyear’s operation in Malaysia is jointly owned by the country’s largest fund manager, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, who conducted consultations with Goodyear.
After the lawsuits, intimidation
Workers said they faced bullying from Goodyear after filing the lawsuits. Goodyear declined to comment.
“The company had different rules for different groups of workers,” said Sharan Kumar Rai, who filed one of the lawsuits and worked at Goodyear in Malaysia from 2012 until last year.
Foreign workers filed the first two lawsuits in July 2019. Shortly afterwards, Goodyear asked some to sign letters, without his lawyer’s knowledge, that they would withdraw the lawsuit, according to his lawyer, the police complaints filed. in October 2019 and a copy of the letter seen by Reuters. Reporting a complaint to the police does not always lead to criminal charges, but can trigger an investigation.
Industrial court president Anna Ng Fui Choo said in her ruling that the letter “was an act of unfair labor practice.”
The Malaysian labor department told Reuters that it had investigated and charged Goodyear in 2020 for nine violations of labor laws, which were unrelated to lawsuits, overtime and unjustified wage deductions. He fined Goodyear 41,500 ringgit ($ 10,050).
Malaysia has in recent years faced accusations from its own Ministry of Human Resources and U.S. authorities of labor abuse in its factories, which rely on millions of migrant workers to manufacture from palm oil to medical gloves and iPhone components.