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BYD dismisses reports as "inaccurate and misleading"

By Michael Barris in New York | China Daily USA | Updated: 2013-12-16 11:47

Automaker BYD dismissed as "misinformed and inaccurate" published reports about wages and labor rules violations at its electric-bus manufacturing plant in California and said it remains undeterred to bring its "green dream" to the United States.

Lanny Davis, an attorney and spokesman for the firm, whose parent company is based in Shenzhen, China, and which is backed by investor Warren Buffett, said that BYD paid five engineers 60 percent above California's minimum wage. In November, the New York Times reported that the company was fined $100,000 after California authorities investigated charges brought against it by advocacy group Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy that the carmaker failed to pay workers the required minimum wage. BYD had said the labor rights group was spreading "misinformation". The Times said state officials said the company had violated minimum wage law and failed to provide sufficient documentation of pay.

Officials with BYD had said they planned to appeal the citation. Davis told reporters in a conference call Friday that the workers were temporary employees from China who were paid on average from $12 to $16 an hour - above California's minimum wage of $8.

On top of that, "the parent company provided the employees with a house and their own bedrooms and access to two rental cars that they shared for personal and business use," Davis said. They also continued to have health care benefits from BYD's parent.

There were reports that BYD was falling short of its goal for job-creation in California. The Times reported in late October that three and a half years after it promised to create dozens of jobs in its manufacturing plant in Lancaster, near Los Angeles, the company had employed fewer than 40 workers in the US, including the temporary Chinese workers.

BYD, which has its US headquarters in Los Angeles, has contracts to make 15 buses for the city of Long Beach and as many as 25 for the Los Angeles public transportation authority.

During the conference call, four Los Angeles-area officials endorsed BYD's products and business practices: Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris, Richard Hunt, general manager of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Ruben Gonzalez, vice-president for public policy and political affairs for the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Parris called Lancaster's experience with BYD "phenomenal", saying the company is "leading the way" in energy storage - the way of the future in public transportation. He said he expected BYD to become "the main manufacturer in the city of Lancaster" and predicted that as a result of the Lancaster plant "every bus in Antelope Valley will be a BYD bus."

Hunt called BYD's technology "the first step in making the zero-emission battery-powered high-capacity transit vehicle a viable alternative for large urban areas like Los Angeles".

Gonzalez said he looked forward to "a long relationship with the company," calling its association with the chamber "positive".

Antonovich said BYD's contracts are a pathway to "creating more jobs and helping our economy grow."

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