Chinese workers seek more in Apple supplier's plant poison case

TAIPEI/BEIJING Fri Feb 25, 2011 11:37am EST

People crowd outside a factory owned by Wintek, the Taiwanese company making touch screens on contract for Apple, in Suzhou, Jiangsu province February 18, 2011. REUTERS/Aly Song

People crowd outside a factory owned by Wintek, the Taiwanese company making touch screens on contract for Apple, in Suzhou, Jiangsu province February 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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TAIPEI/BEIJING (Reuters) - A Taiwan-owned plant making parts for Apple Inc said it is offering around 80,000 yuan ($12,177) as compensation to each of the 115 workers hit by chemical poisoning but some of the affected Chinese workers said the sum was not enough.

Wintek, owner of the factory in east China's Suzhou industrial park, said it has reserved 10 million yuan for compensation to the workers affected by the chemical hexyl hydride, and will pay more if the illness continues.

But two workers contacted by Reuters on Friday said that the 80,000 yuan offered by the company to each worker so far was not sufficient.

"Don't tell me 80,000 yuan, even 800,000 yuan will not be enough," said Hu Zhiyong, a 26-year-old worker.

Hu, who said his daily medical expenses are over 800 yuan, added that his major demand is future health care after he leaves the company, as well as an apology from Apple.

Reuters reported earlier this week that some of the workers had sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, urging the company to help address their grievances.

Wintek 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.

The company used the chemical, which evaporates faster than alcohol, to speed up production. It has gone back to using alcohol.

"We have accrued all liabilities," said Wintek's finance director, Jay Huang, on Friday. "If they discover any continued illness in the future, we will compensate as required by law."

The company has set aside the 10 million yuan as a provision.

According to Wintek, 91 workers have finished assessments on their health condition and 24 are still in the process of being assessed, and it estimates each will get around 80,000 yuan in compensation.

Another 22 have been cleared of any poisoning.

Hu said Wintek will bear all legal responsibilities and compensate affected workers even after they leave the company if they are diagnosed with continued illness.

Li Wanxin, a 19-year-old worker, said the company has initially offered her 2,223 yuan in compensation: 1,500 yuan for medical expenses and 723 yuan as a living allowance. She said this was sufficient for now but wants more.

Li said she has yet to receive the money because she needs to complete a final check-up required under labor laws to ascertain that she was indeed affected by poisoning while working at the plant.

(Reporting by Clare Jim in Taipei and Suilee Wee in Beijing; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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Comments (3)
hujintaosson wrote:
In China’s media, whenever they talk about the Taiwan owned supplier to Apple, they forget to mention that the company is Taiwan owned. They always say the American company, Apple. It is easy to see China’s media bais and how they manipulate their people. I have not read one Chinese news source, English and Chinese language, that said it is a Taiwan owned parts supplier. It shows that China is a dangerous force in the world when 1.5 billion people believe everything their biased, nationalistic media says.

Feb 25, 2011 9:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
mb55 wrote:
I suspect there will be more situations like this in the future, and next time Chines workers may decide to hire American lawers and then go after real money, that is Apple and other reach companies.

Feb 25, 2011 5:22pm EST  --  Report as abuse
julienquentin wrote:
I think this is a shame that these elements are not checked during audit processes.

Apple is just putting its Apple on the toys we buy from them but is not doing enough work on how our consumption impacts the life of millions of workers.

With a cash way above 60bn usd it is not understandable that they do not have a perfect corporate responsibility program.

Job’s tumor being care of my the best doctors would bring sadness to hundreds million of people but the pain of asian workers developing the same kind of illness wouldn’t even make us react.

Feb 25, 2011 6:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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