Rights group Liberty Shared has asked United States customs authorities to investigate Malaysian operations of American tire maker Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co over accusations of abusive labour practices, the group told Reuters.
The southeast Asian nation employs millions of foreign workers and has faced growing accusations of exploitative labour practices, receiving the worst ranking this month in an annual U.S. report on human trafficking.
The Hong Kong-based anti-trafficking group said its June petition to U.S. customs, based on lawsuits and police reports by migrant workers, was probably the first such effort against a subsidiary of an American-owned company in southeast Asia.
“The conditions and treatment they have endured seem to satisfy the International Labour Organisation’s forced labour indicators,” the group’s managing director, Duncan Jepson, said in its first comments to media on the issue.
He added that he understood U.S. customs was pursuing the matter.
Such petitions to U.S. customs have led to the United States blocking imports from Malaysian firms in the past over the suspected use of forced labour.
Migrant workers from India, Myanmar and Nepal have accused Goodyear Malaysia of unpaid wages, unlawful overtime, threats and intimidation, Reuters reported in May, citing court documents and police complaints filed by the workers.
Goodyear, one of the world’s largest tire makers, said it was not aware of any petition by Liberty Shared and had strong policies to protect human rights.
“We take seriously any allegations of improper behaviour and are committed to ensuring that our business practices and those of our associates, operations and supply chain adhere to all applicable legal requirements and the requirements in our policies,” a Goodyear spokesperson said in an email.
In the past, the company has declined to comment on the workers’ accusations, citing the court process.
Malaysia’s largest fund manager, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, which is a joint owner of Goodyear’s Malaysia operation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it does not comment on whether specific entities are being investigated.
In an email, the CBP told Jepson that it had received the petition on forced labour conditions and was reviewing the information.
The July 19 email, reviewed by Reuters, does not name Goodyear Malaysia, but Jepson said the petition was about the company, based on civil cases and police reports filed by its workers.
Malaysia’s industrial court has ruled in favour of the Goodyear workers in the labour disputes. The company has challenged two verdicts in the High Court.
Last year, Liberty Shared accused Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby Plantation of forced and child labour in a petition to the CBP, leading it to block the firm’s products from entering the United States.
Sime Darby has appointed auditors to evaluate its practices and said it would engage with the CBP to address the concerns raised.