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|Friday, May 04, 2001, updated at 16:40(GMT+8)|
Workers Sue Firm for Neglecting HealthWorkers at an engineering company in Zhejiang Province are suing their employers for allegedly making them ill and are demanding millions of yuan in compensation.
Almost 200 workers from the Tunnel Engineering Company of Taishun County in Wenzhou say their working conditions caused them to contract silicosis, according to Xinhua.
Silicosis is a lung disease caused by inhaling large amounts of dusty air loaded with silicon dioxide.
The disease causes coughing, shortness of breath and sufferers are prone to catching tuberculosis.
The employees are suing the firm for allegedly neglecting work safety and have demanded 200 million yuan (US$24 million) in compensation.
Workers started to suffer from silicosis in 1993 when they were working on the Wujialing Tunnel Project in Shenyang-Benxi area, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, according to court papers.
The project was located in a quartzite sandstone area. Due to a lack of protection during the digging work, many workers began to suffer from silicosis, the workers said.
Some 196 employees were diagnosed with silicosis after a health check conducted by the Zhejiang Provincial Occupational Disease Appraisal Commission in September last year.
Among them, 15 workers were in the third or the worse stages of silicosis, and 71 in the second stage.
The workers were ranked according to differing degrees of disability. So far, 10 workers have died.
In October last year, the workers began to sue the company.
They are suing individually but the Wenzhou Intermediate Court has brought the cases together.
The court has gathered a special group of judges to deal with the case.
Since the workers are poor people and cannot afford legal costs, the court has decided to postpone charging the plaintiffs.
Lawyers in Wenzhou have come forward to offer free legal aid and five top lawyers have formed a volunteer lawyers group to help the workers.
The case is still under investigation and is expected to be concluded soon.
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