21 February 2020

BYD seeks to resolve wage dispute in LA

BYD Co. Ltd. (01211.HK, 002594.CN), the electric vehicle maker backed by US billionaire Warren Buffett, said it will work with the California Labor Commissioner’s office to resolve a wage dispute related to some workers in the US, hoping to put an end to the matter in a spirit of conciliation.

“We are dedicated to properly paying our employees under California’s wages and hour laws,” the Shenzhen-based company said in an emailed statement Friday. “We have just received customer approval to start manufacturing our green technology buses, and look forward to hiring more California workers for those jobs.”

BYD is fully committed to being a good corporate citizen and employer in California, the Chinese firm said. 

The statement came after an American labor rights advocacy group, the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), issued a call Thursday US time for a protest against BYD’s labor practices. BYD has been fined for violating labor laws with regard to 22 employees in Los Angeles and Lancaster in California, including paying Chinese workers in LA just US$1.5 per hour, LAANE said in a press release on its website, citing the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The rights group, led by co-founder and national policy director Madeline Janis, said it will demonstrate outside the office of BYD to “decry the company’s rotten treatment of workers and hollow promises of good jobs for Angelenos.”

California government fined BYD almost US$100,000 for violating the state’s minimum-wage laws, The New York Times reported on Oct. 26. BYD brought five workers from China to California but paid far less than the state’s US$8-an-hour minimum wage, the report said. The workers are not subject to state labor laws as they stay in the US on legal work visas, BYD America vice president Michael Austin was quoted as saying in the report.

“Questions have been raised about the wages paid to a few technology experts who are visiting LA temporarily from China to train BYD’s American workforce… but the information being disseminated is incomplete,” BYD said in its latest statement.

It said it is “perplexed” by the misinformation being spread by LAANE.

–Contact HKEJ at [email protected]