Chinese tycoon rebuts biased NYT report about factory

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 21, 2017
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Cao Dewang, founder and head of the world's top auto glass manufacturer Fuyao Glass, was perturbed in recent days by an untruthful New York Times report about his factory in Dayton, Ohio, which went viral on China's social media.

"(Dayton) local government claims the New York Times report is a 'false' one," Cao told Xinhua in a telephone interview. The Chinese tycoon added that the local government believes that Fuyao's investment in Dayton has brought tremendous positive changes to the local community.

The Dayton factory, which officially started operation in October 2016, currently employs some 2,000 U.S. workers. Fuyao has invested 600 million dollars in the Dayton plant and plans to further expand the investment in the United States in the next few years, creating 3,000 more jobs there.

Dubious claims & problematic choice of interviewees

In a recent report, the New York Times claimed that "at Fuyao, a major culture clash is playing out on the factory floor, with some workers questioning the company's commitment to operating under American supervision and American norms."

"New York Times didn't visit and interview any current employee at Fuyao's Dayton factory. Instead, it only talked with a few former workers and union activists, who are biased to a certain degree," said Cao.

The former employees interviewed by the New York Times had been fired by Fuyao due to excessive absence, late arrivals or early leaves, according to a communication officer from Fuyao.

Cao confirmed that some of Fuyao's employees attended a meeting held by a union organization, but he rejected the stories widely circulating on Chinese social media asserting that "Fuyao employees were demonstrating against the company."

"Among Fuyao's around 2,000 employees, only dozens attended a meeting held by a union organization outside Fuyao factory," Cao told Xinhua, adding that "Fuyao has no right to intervene employees' activities after work."

Cao also said that Fuyao's factory in Dayton has been strictly observing U.S. laws and regulations.

In response to safety issues pointed out by U.S. safety regulator, Fuyao paid 100,000 U.S. dollars in penalty to settle the charges from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

According to a statement provided to Xinhua by Fuyao's communication officer, at the beginning of last year when the Dayton factory had been operating for a few months, OSHA found some safety concerns, such as insufficient access to locks that shut down machines, during its inspections. "Fuyao acknowledged parts of the issues OSHA pointed out, and has taken measures to improve workforce safety," said the statement.

Cao denied the claims that the factory lacked sufficient safety measures, saying that "the Dayton factory is equipped with the best automation processing lines."

"If there was any safety issue that threatened employees' life security, my billions of dollars of investment in Dayton would go bust," said Cao.

In response to claims of insufficient training, Cao said that new employees at the Dayton factory usually go through a three-month training which is funded by the local government, and that gives them enough time to know the production line and technologies since training of new workers in Fuyao's Chinese plants usually lasts a week.

He also dismissed allegations of increased proportion of Chinese supervisors. "Fuyao has been localizing its business in America since the beginning of its investment here. The administration and management staff are mainly American, while Chinese only work as technical advisors at the factory, and will not be appointed as top managers," said Cao.

Cao told Xinhua that he has been treating employees as family members and pay them 5 percent to 10 percent higher than local industrial average.

Fuyao also established a charity foundation with an annual budget of 1 million U.S. dollars in order to help financially-troubled employees, said Cao.

No need for alarm

Fuyao, a supplier for many leading auto companies, has a 22-percent market share in the United States. In 2014, the Chinese company bought a 450,000 square-meter facility in Dayton region which was left idled after General Motors shut down its truck assembly line there during the global financial crisis in 2008.

Fuyao turned the idled factory into the largest auto glass manufacturing facility in the world. Its investment in Dayton region is the largest Chinese investment in Ohio history and the eighth-largest direct foreign investment in the United States over the last decade.

Any company would sometimes find it a struggle to manage fast business expansion, said Kristi Tanner, senior managing director of JobsOhio, referring to Fuyao's fast growth of up to 2,000 employees within two years. JobsOhio helped the state win Fuyao's investment and Tanner was one of the persons in charge of the project.

"I think that Fuyao has done an excellent job of managing that growth thus far and they've been very successful with their business dealings," said Tanner. "They have ongoing dialogue with the employees that they have there, and I have every confidence that they are going to be able to work through some of the challenges," she added.

In response to union activities at the plant, Tanner said it is nothing abnormal since any fast-growing company in the United States is certainly going to have employees that may want a union representation.

"The best advice for companies that are looking to invest in the U.S. is just to make sure that they understand what a union representation means in the U.S. and what the rules and regulations are around that," Tanner said.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing is to make sure that you have a good relationship with your employees and that you treat them very well," said Tanner.

In regard to Fuyao's lawsuit with a former manager, Hong Shihong, partner at the law firm Dorsey, told Xinhua that the legal case appeared in the News York Times' report was not a special one in terms of claims and complexity.

According to the lawyer, it's not unusual for a company that has such a large scale of investment to have legal disputes. "These disputes are just 'common cold,' not big enough to be called 'crises,' said Hong.

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