January 29, 2014 / 6:50 AM / in 4 years

Buffett-backed Chinese automaker BYD settles U.S. wage dispute

SHANGHAI, Jan 29 (Reuters) - China’s BYD Co Ltd said it has agreed to pay a fine to settle a California case over wage payments - a case that had put the Warren Buffet-backed automaker’s labor practices under the spotlight.

Last October, BYD was accused of failing to pay five Chinese workers temporarily working in the United States the required minimum wage of $8 per hour.

It rejected that argument, saying in a statement on Wednesday that its workers were paid the equivalent of $12-$16 per hour in Chinese currency, but it said it had agreed to pay a $1,900 fine to resolve the matter.

BYD said that its hearing with California’s Labor Commissioner’s office will continue on two other matters - the alleged omission of information on employees’ check stubs and the alleged denial of flexibility on rest breaks for eight employees. BYD said it denied the allegations.

The dispute highlights potential obstacles Chinese companies face as they begin to make inroads in mature markets like the United States and Europe where they are under more stringent industrial laws and regulations.

BYD, which makes electric buses in the United States, currently employs 50 local workers and plans to add 100 more next year.

The Chinese company is stepping up efforts to sell electric vehicles overseas. It signed several contracts last year, including one to supply the U.S. cities of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

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