Jun 21, 2017 07:06 PM

China Glassmaker Downplays Concerns Over Ohio Plant

The chairman of China’s largest automotive-glass maker said Tuesday that the company’s U.S. factory is “fundamentally successful” despite recent reports of safety and labor issues at the $1 billion plant in southwestern Ohio.

Fuyao Group’s Cao Dewang told Caixin that the company was fined $40,000 by the U.S. federal government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), not $100,000 as reported in a June 10 New York Times story on the company’s facility in the city of Dayton.

“For a $1 billion investment project, I don’t think a $40,000 fine is an indicator of serious production safety problems,” Cao said. “Under U.S. law, if there had been serious safety or environmental issues, the entire project would’ve been shut down immediately, and the fine would’ve been at least $100 million.”

There had indeed been safety violations during the equipment installation process at Fuyao’s factory, which opened on Oct. 1, Cao said. But these issues were fixed after OSHA stepped in, Cao added.

In addition to safety problems, Fuyao’s Ohio factory has also faced complaints from workers and an “acrimonious union campaign” by the United Automobile Workers (UAW), which represents workers in the industry across North America, the New York Times reported.

But Cao told Caixin that while the UAW had once held a meeting at a hotel near the factory, fewer than 30 of the factory’s approximately 2,000 employees attended, and there were never any protests at the factory.

Chinese factories expanding abroad will inevitably face challenging environments, “but we have to create the conditions for acclimatizing,” Cao said. “You can only change yourself, not the environment.” he said.

Chinese companies must “unconditionally fulfill” local safety and environmental standards, Cao said.

Fuyao was one of the first Chinese firms to begin investing abroad, and has been investing in the U.S. since 1995. The Ohio factory is its first North American facility. The firm has also opened factories in Russia and Germany.

Its overseas activities cost the company $10 million between 1995 and 1998, Cao said, but he expects the Ohio factory to turn a profit of around $60 million this year.

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