SHAH ALAM, Malaysia—Goodyear finds itself at the center of an ongoing labor dispute regarding the company's alleged treatment and payment of migrant workers employed in Malaysia.
It's a situation where Malaysia Industrial Court already has ruled against Goodyear twice in the past, and the matter is receiving international attention thanks to a recent media report out of Malaysia.
The Akron-based tire maker—through a joint venture called Goodyear Malaysia Bhd.—allegedly underpaid workers from Nepal, India and Myanmar working at the company's plant in Shah Alam, according to lawyer Chandra Segaran Rajandran, who is handling cases for plaintiffs.
"Goodyear Malaysia Bhd. had been short-changing the migrant workers in their employment for more than 10 years. The company held to a position or interpretation of the law which best suited their monetary interests," Rajandran said in an email interview. "Goodyear should now come clean, admit their mistakes and immediately pay the migrant workers their dues."
Goodyear, for its part, is not saying much when asked for a comment on the situation.
"Goodyear has strong policies and practices relating to and protecting human rights, including our Human Rights Policy. We take seriously any allegations of improper behavior relating to our associates, operations and supply chain," the company said in a statement.
"Goodyear is aware of the lawsuits and of the recent judicial review involving Goodyear Malaysia Bhd., which are awaiting the decisions of the Industrial Court and judicial review at the High Court. As the questions posed are related to the pending litigation, Goodyear cannot comment on them," the company said.
A total of 140 people are covered under two cases already determined by the Industrial Court, but appealed by Goodyear. Another 65 are included in a third case that still is under consideration in Industrial Court, according to information provided by the lawyer.
Workers allegedly have been shortchanged by about $1.2 million, Rajandran told Reuters.
At issue is whether the workers were eligible for higher pay because they were not part of a labor union. The Industrial Court in Kuala Lumpur has sided with the employees in two separate cases, which are now under appeal.
The Shah Alam plant operated by Goodyear Malaysia Bhd. has been in business since 1972 and is 51 percent owned by Goodyear and 49 percent owned by Permodalan Nasional Bhd., according to Malaysian court records. Permodalan Nasional Bhd. is a fund established by the Malaysian government that's open to public investment.
A complaint was filed in July 2019 by 119 workers alleging Goodyear Malaysia Bhd. did not comply with a collective labor agreement from 2016 to 2019. At issue were shift allowance, annual bonus and wages/salaries.
Goodyear Malaysia Bhd. claimed that individual employment contracts entered into by the company and each of the plaintiffs in the legal action governed compensation, not the collective agreement reached for separate unionized employees at the plant.
But the Industrial Court ultimately ruled the employees fall under the collective agreement despite their individual employment contracts.
"The complainants are not union members, however they still enjoy the benefits in the collective agreement (CA)," the ruling states.
"The complainants are the workers which fall within the scope of the CA, as such they are covered by the scope of CA and entitled to any of the benefits under the CA. My humble view is that it has been successfully established the fact that the complainants are the workers who fall within the scope of CA and entitled to the benefits under the CA."
The workers were hired as production operators and builders, which are not listed as job classifications in a section of the labor agreement. They also are excluded from managerial, executive, confidential and security capacities, the court stated. "In this situation, the complainants cannot be in the middle (gray area), either they are within the scope or outside the scope," the Industrial Court ruled.
"This is a wakeup call to all employers in Malaysia who have engaged migrant workers to re-look at their employment practices. Treat migrant workers fairly," Rajandran said.