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Goodyear faces allegations of labour abuse in Malaysia, documents show

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American tire manufacturer Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co 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 labour 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 labour 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 labour union.

The court ruled in favour 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 judgement published on the court’s website. Goodyear was ordered to pay back wages and comply with the collective agreement, according to the judgement and the workers’ lawyer.

About 150 worker payslips, 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 5 million ringgit ($1.21 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 behaviour 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 labour practice”.

Malaysia’s labour department told Reuters it had investigated and charged Goodyear in 2020 over nine violations of labour laws, unrelated to the lawsuits, regarding excessive hours and wrongful salary deductions. It fined Goodyear 41,500 ringgit ($10,050), it said.

Malaysia has in recent years faced accusations from its own Human Resources Ministry and authorities in the United States of labour abuse at its factories, which rely on millions of migrant workers to manufacture everything from palm oil to medical gloves and iPhone components.

($1 = 4.1255 ringgit)

(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu and A. Ananthalakshmi. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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Brazil’s Vale says output begins at Reid Brook nickel deposit in Canada

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Vale’s Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Northern Labrador has started the production at its Reid Brook deposit, the Brazilian miner said in a securities filing on Tuesday.

Vale said the Canadian Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps mines are likely to produce 40,000 tonnes of nickel by 2025.

 

(Reporting by Carolina Mandl; editing by Jason Neely)

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EU, U.S. agree to talk on carbon border tariff

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The United States and European Union agreed on Tuesday to hold talks on the bloc’s planned carbon border tariff, possibly at the World Trade Organisation, EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.

U.S. President Joe Biden met European Commission President von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday for a summit tackling issues from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The leaders also discussed climate change policy, including the EU’s plan to impose carbon emissions costs on imports of goods, including steel and cement, which the Commission will propose next month.

“I explained the logic of our carbon border adjustment mechanism,” von der Leyen told a news conference after the summit.

“We discussed that we will exchange on it. And that WTO might facilitate this,” she said.

Brussels and Washington are keen to revitalise transatlantic cooperation on climate change, after four fractious years under former president Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, they outlined plans for a transatlantic alliance to develop green technologies and said they will coordinate diplomatic efforts to convince other big emitters to cut CO2 faster.

But the EU border levy could still cause friction. A draft of the proposal said it would apply to some U.S. goods sold into the EU, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

Brussels says the policy is needed to put EU firms on an equal footing with competitors in countries with weaker climate policies, and that countries with sufficiently ambitious emissions-cutting policies could be exempted from the fee.

The United States and EU are the world’s second- and third- biggest emitters of CO2, respectively, after China.

A draft of the EU-U.S. summit statement, seen by Reuters, repeated commitments the leaders made at the G7 summit at the weekend to “scale up efforts” to meet an overdue spending pledge of $100 billion a year by rich countries to help poorer countries cut carbon emissions and cope with global warming.

It did not include firm promises of cash. Canada and Germany both pledged billions in new climate finance on Sunday, and campaigners had called on Brussels and Washington to do the same.

The draft statement also stopped short of setting a date for the United States and EU to stop burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel and the single biggest of greenhouse gas emissions.

Brussels and Washington said they will largely eliminate their CO2 emissions from electricity production by the 2030s.

 

(Reporting by Kate Abnett, additional reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Marguerita Choy, Andrew Heavens and Barbara Lewis)

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U.S. fine Air Canada $25.5 milliom over delayed refunds

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The U.S. Transportation Department said on Tuesday it was seeking a $25.5 million fine from Air Canada over the carrier’s failure to provide timely refunds requested by thousands of customers for flights to or from the United States.

The department said it filed a formal complaint with a U.S. administrative law judge over flights Air Canada canceled or significantly changed. The penalty is “intended to deter Air Canada and other carriers from committing similar violations in the future,” the department said, adding Air Canada continued its no-refund policy in violation of U.S. law for more than a year.

Air Canada said it believes the U.S. government’s position “has no merit.” It said it “will vigorously challenge the proceedings.”

Air Canada obtained a financial aid package this spring that gave the carrier access to up to C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) in funds through a loan program.

The carrier said it has been refunding nonrefundable tickets as part of the Canadian government’s financial package. Since April 13 eligible customers have been able to obtain refunds for previously issued nonrefundable tickets, it said.

The Transportation Department disclosed it is also “actively investigating the refund practices of other U.S. and foreign carriers flying to and from the United States” and said it will take “enforcement action” as appropriate.

The administration said the Air Canada penalty sought was over “extreme delays in providing the required refunds.”

Refund requests spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 2020, the Transportation Department has received over 6,000 complaints against Air Canada from consumers who said they were denied refunds for flights canceled or significantly changed. The department said the airline committed a minimum of 5,110 violations and passengers waited anywhere from five to 13 months to receive refunds.

Last month, a trade group told U.S. lawmakers that 11 U.S. airlines issued $12.84 billion in cash refunds to customers in 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic upended the travel industry.

In May, Democratic Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal called on carriers to issue cash refunds whether flights were canceled by the airline or traveler.

($1 = 1.2195 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Shepardson in WashingtonAdditional reporting by Allison Lampert in MontrealEditing by Matthew Lewis)

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