Toyota Motor said on Thursday it has handed over to a U.S. congressional committee a letter sent to its management by a splinter union in 2006 seeking reforms to improve safety after a recall crisis at the time.
On Monday, Rep. Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the automaker to turn over the document after a Los Angeles Times report on the letter. The two-page memo has been on the 20-member All Toyota Labor Union's website since late 2006.
The committee confirmed it had received the memo.
The October 2006 letter, addressed to then-president Katsuaki Watanabe, came in the wake of a criminal investigation into Toyota on charges of professional negligence involving an accident in Japan that injured a family of five earlier that year. Toyota was eventually cleared of the charges.
The renewed scrutiny of the union's letter comes as Toyota grapples with a recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide since late last year for problems related to unintended acceleration.
The problems have been linked to at least five crash deaths in the United States since 2007, and have damaged Toyota's sales and reputation for quality.
U.S. regulators also continue to investigate reports of sudden acceleration from a growing number of Toyota drivers.
The alternative union listed a fall in the number of experienced staff in favor of contract workers, longer working hours and an aggressive pursuit of cost cuts among the root causes of the quality slippage.
Led by Tadao Wakatsuki, a 45-year veteran at Toyota's Motomachi factory, the group sought a seven-point action plan from management including an explanation of the criminal probe, a review of the length of vehicle development period and a review of cost reduction methodologies.
Toyota spokeswoman Mieko Iwasaki confirmed management had received the letter in 2006.
She said the company had responded to the union at the time regarding one of its requests -- to quickly develop a program for the reduction of total working hours, to 1,800 hours a year, and improve the working environment.
She could not immediately confirm the nature of the response.
She said this was the sole point to which it responded as it was the only one pertaining to labor matters.
Under Japan's plural representation rule, companies are obligated to recognize and engage unions on labor matters regardless of their size. The All Toyota Labor Union has two members from Toyota Motor proper, Iwasaki said.
(Additional reporting by John Crawley in WASHINGTON)