A general view of the Goodyear factory in Shah Alam, Malaysia May 6, 2021. Picture taken May 6, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng/File Photo

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KUALA LUMPUR, September 14 (Reuters) – Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co has reached an agreement to settle a labor dispute at its Malaysian factory with migrant workers who alleged unpaid wages and benefits, the company and five former workers said workers at Reuters.

Goodyear, one of the world’s largest tire makers, declined to say how much it paid, but workers said settlement agreements signed this year ranged from around 50,000 ringgit ($11,061.95) at 200,000 ringgit ($44,247.79) per worker depending on the length of their employment.

The workers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the settlement, said the net compensation they received was less than this due to taxes and attorney fees.

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The total amount of the settlement exceeded the original claim by around 5 million ringgit, workers’ lawyer Chandra Segaran Rajandran said, although he declined to go into specifics, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

The settlement covers several lawsuits brought against Goodyear by a total of 184 current and former workers from Nepal, India and Myanmar in the Malaysian Labor Court since 2019.

In an email, Goodyear said the settlement complied with the terms of the court rulings and followed an external accounting analysis of the compensation.

The labor court had ordered Goodyear to reimburse the wages of certain workers and to comply with a collective agreement on compensation. Goodyear had appealed the verdict but then entered into settlement talks.

“The company is pleased to have achieved an outcome that is pleasing to the workers,” Goodyear said, adding that it is committed to human rights and fair labor standards.

The company said it had completed a thorough review of workers’ concerns, including an independent audit of its labor practices. He did not reveal the results of the audit.

Its Malaysian unit also parted ways with a supplier and a human resources manager involved in the case, and strengthened its supplier evaluation process to ensure adherence to its values ​​and policies, Goodyear added.

Along with settling the legal dispute, the workers said they also received 10,000 ringgit each from Goodyear as compensation for recruitment fees they paid to agents in their home country. Goodyear declined to comment.

Activists say the onerous fees usually lead to debt bondage.

The Malaysian Labor Department also accused Goodyear of wrongful deductions and illegal overtime, for which it fined Goodyear 41,500 ringgits last year.

DEDUCTIONS

The five former Goodyear employees who spoke to Reuters said the settlement payment they received was about 50% less than the amount mentioned in the settlements, including a 20% reduction in attorneys’ fees which had previously been agreed.

Workers said the deductions were higher than they had expected.

Attorney Chandra said the 184 workers were taxed between 20% and 30% and that he would help the workers if they chose to appeal to the tax authorities.

Malaysia has been accused by its own human resources ministry and US authorities of labor abuses at its factories, which rely on millions of migrant workers to make everything from palm oil to medical gloves. and iPhone components.

US government investigators questioned workers at Goodyear’s Malaysian operations about their working and living conditions, Reuters reported last year. Homeland Security Investigations, whose officers spoke to the workers, declined to comment on ongoing investigations.

Goodyear is also under investigation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection over its labor practices, according to Liberty Shared, a Hong Kong-based rights group that helps workers and has urged customs to investigate.

US Customs can ban goods they deem to be made from “forced labor”. It has already sanctioned several Malaysian companies.

($1 = 4.5200 ringgit)

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Reporting by Mei Mei Chu and A. Ananthalakshmi. Editing by Gerry Doyle and Louise Heavens

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