Poisoned workers in Apple plea

08:31, February 23, 2011      

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Chinese workers at a factory making touchscreens for Apple have urged the United States company to help address their grievances over chemical poisoning they said could still harm their health.

Wintek, the Taiwan company that owns the factory in an industrial park in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, has said it used hexyl hydride, also called n-hexane, from May 2008 to August 2009, but stopped after discovering it was making workers ill.

"This is a killer, a killer that strikes invisibly," workers said in a letter sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "From when hexyl hydride was used, monthly profits at Apple and Wintek have gone up by tens of millions every month, the accumulated outcome of workers' lives and health," said the letter, signed by five workers claiming to represent employees.

Wintek said it had used the chemical, which evaporates faster than alcohol, to speed up production.

The poisonings were mentioned in a recent report on suppliers by Apple, whose iPhones, iPads and other devices are made in China. The report said 137 workers had been hospitalized because of poisoning but had all recovered, a conclusion also offered by Wintek.

Apple declined to comment on the workers' letter.

Some of the workers at Wintek said the company had not given enough compensation to affected workers, had pressured those who took compensation to give up their jobs, and had not offered assurances that workers who may suffer fresh bouts of illness from the poisoning will have medical bills taken care of.

"I hope Apple can respect our labour and our dignity. I hope they can stand up and apologize to us," said Jia Jingchuan, a 27-year-old production technician for Wintek who who had fallen ill.

Wintek spokesman Jay Huang said all staff who needed medical treatment because of the n-hexane poisoning had been treated, and that the company had reverted to using alcohol to clean the panels it manufactures for Apple.

"We are unable to cope with the medical costs of treatment in the future," said Guo Ruiqiang, another worker at the Wintek plant, who said he was suffering fresh symptoms he blamed on the poisoning.

"We can only stay in the factory and see what happens. We just feel very helpless now," Guo said.

Source: Shanghai Daily
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