American tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co faces charges of unpaid wages, unlawful overtime and intimidation of foreign workers at its Malaysian factory, according to documents in courts and complaints filed by workers.
Speaking to Reuters, six current and former foreign workers, as well as Malaysian labor department officials, said Goodyear had made wrong pay cuts, required many hours and deprived workers of full employment. access to their passports.
The department confirmed that it fined Goodyear in 2020 for overwork and underpaid foreign employees. A former employee said the company illegally withheld his passport, Reuters showed a letter of recognition he signed in January 2020 on its return eight years after he started working at Goodyear.
The allegations, which Reuters was the first to report, first came in 185 foreign workers having filed three complaints against Goodyear Malaysia in the country’s industry court, two in 2019 and one in 2020, because in not following a collective employment agreement. The workers said the company did not give them transfer allowances, annual bonuses and salary increases even if these benefits were available to local employees, represented by a labor union.
The court ruled in favor of foreign workers in two of the cases last year, saying they were entitled to the same rights as Malaysian employees, according to a copy of the judgment posted on the court’s website. Goodyear was ordered to pay back the wages and follow the collective agreement, in accordance with the judge and the workers ’attorney.
About 150 workers ’paylips, which the lawyer said were submitted to the court as evidence of unpaid wages and reviewed by Reuters, showed some migrants working up to 229 hours a month in overtime, in excess of Malaysia’s limit of 104 hours.
The foreign workers claimed about 5 million ringgit ($ 1.21m) in unpaid wages, said their lawyer Chandra Segaran Rajandran. Workers from Nepal, Myanmar and India.
“They are put in a situation where they are denied their full rights as to what is provided for (by law),” he said, adding that it costs “discrimination”.
Goodyear, one of the largest tire makers in the world, has challenged the same high court judges. The decision on the appeal is expected on July 26. The verdict for the third case, on the same issues, will continue in the coming weeks.
Goodyear declined to comment on any of the charges, citing court process. Consistent with a court ruling last year, Goodyear Malaysia argued that foreign workers were not entitled to collective bargaining benefits because they were not union members.
Consistent with the judgment, a union representative certifies that foreign workers are eligible to participate and are entitled to the benefits of the collective agreement even if they are not members. The court agreed that the employment of foreign workers entitles them to benefits.
Goodyear told Reuters it has strong policies and ethics related to and protection of human rights.
“We take any allegations of misconduct in relation to our partners, operations and supply chain seriously,” 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 workers’ complaints.
Goodyear’s operations in Malaysia are equally owned by the country’s largest fund manager, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, which directs Goodyear’s inquiries.
After the lawsuit, intimidation
Workers said they faced intimidation from Goodyear after they filed the lawsuit. Goodyear declined to comment.
“The company has different laws for different groups of workers,” said Sharan Kumar Rai, who filed one of the lawsuits and worked at Goodyear in Malaysia from 2012 to last year.
The foreign workers filed the first two lawsuits in July 2019. Shortly afterwards, Goodyear asked some to sign the letters, without their lawyer’s knowledge, that they would withdraw from in legal action – according to their lawyer, police complaints filed in October 2019 and a copy of the letter seen by Reuters. Reporting a police complaint will not always result in criminal charges but can trigger an investigation.
Industry court chairman Anna Ng Fui Choo said in her judgment that the letter was “an act of unfair work ethic”.
The Malaysian labor department told Reuters they investigated and charged Goodyear in 2020 with nine violations of labor laws, unrelated to the lawsuit, regarding overtime and wrongful wage cuts. Goodyear fined it 41,500 ringgit ($ 10,050), it said.
In recent years Malaysia has faced accusations from its own Human Resources Ministry and U.S. authorities of abusing labor in its factories, relying on millions of migrant workers to produce everything from palm oil to medical gloves and iPhone components.