U.S. tire maker Goodyear loses dispute against foreign workers in Malaysia

FILE PHOTO: A general view of Goodyear factory in Shah Alam

(This Jun.10 story corrects “over a hundred” to “dozens of” in para 1; no. of migrant workers who filed complaints to 184 from 250 in para 2; no. of workers in latest judgement to 65 from 109 in para 5)

By Mei Mei Chu

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s Industrial Court has ruled in favor of dozens of migrant workers in a labor dispute against American tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co, court documents showed on Thursday, amid accusations of unpaid wages and employee mistreatment at the firm’s Malaysian factory.

A total of 184 migrant workers had filed five complaints against Goodyear Malaysia in 2019 and 2020 over non-compliance with a collective labor agreement, and are claiming about 5 million ringgit ($1.21 million) in unpaid wages.

The workers allege that Goodyear, one of the world’s largest tire makers, did not give them shift allowances, annual bonuses and pay increases even though these benefits were available to local staff, who are represented by a labour union.

Goodyear Malaysia argued that the migrant workers did not have legal standing to file the complaint as they were not union members, according to the court documents. The workers are from Nepal, Myanmar and India.

In three rulings dated June 9 and published on Thursday, Industrial Court President Rasidah Chik dismissed Goodyear’s argument, ordering the firm to pay back wages owed to 65 workers and comply with the collective agreement.

“It is clear that the complainants have proved that all of them are covered within the scope of the collective agreement and thus they are eligible to receive the benefits provided,” Rasidah said.

Goodyear was not immediately available for comment.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg albeit a significant milestone in the treatment of migrant workers in this company,” said the workers’ lawyer Chandra Segaran Rajandran.

They will look to pursue other benefits in the collective agreement that have been denied to the workers, including arrears in overtime payment and other allowances, he added.

The court has already ruled in favor of the foreign workers in two of the cases last year. Goodyear has challenged both verdicts at the High Court.

Goodyear is also facing accusations of unlawful overtime, wrongful salary deduction, denying workers full access to their passports, and threats to migrant workers, Reuters has reported.

($1 = 4.1170 ringgit)

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu, Editing by Nick Zieminski)