Firm is urged to help cadmium victims

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 May, 2005, 12:00am

Labour rights activists briefly disrupted a meeting of Gold Peak Industries shareholders yesterday to protest against the company's delay in setting up a medical fund for workers with cadmium poisoning.

Six protesters chanted 'Boycott bloody GP batteries', and other slogans, outside the JW Marriott hotel in Admiralty ahead of the company's extraordinary general meeting. Two of them, who hold shares in the company, then marched into the meeting and unfurled a large green banner.

Poon Man-hon and Au Loong-yu demanded to be allowed to put questions to Gold Peak chairman Victor Lo Chung-wing but were refused, and walked out.

The protesters were demanding Gold Peak meet workers' compensation demands. They also urged Mr Lo to fulfil a promise he made in November to create a fund to pay for the workers' long-term medical expenses.

'Half a year has passed since he made that promise,' Mr Au, representing civic group Globalisation Monitor, said.

'We definitely need to know whether he will take up that responsibility.'

Last year more than 300 workers from Gold Peak's Huizhou factories were found to have high levels of cadmium, a cancer-causing metal that affects kidney function.

Eighteen are still being treated at the Guangdong Provincial Occupational Disease Control Hospital, including six who have been confirmed to have cadmium poisoning.

Hui Wing-sun, director of GP Batteries, said the company had already paid workers 4 million yuan compensation. Those who chose to leave the company's employment were paid between $3,000 and $8,000, he said. But the sums are far short of what 65 of the workers are demanding in a lawsuit. They are suing Gold Peak for 16 million yuan, or 250,000 yuan each, for physical and psychological damages. A Huizhou court is hearing the case.

Mr Hui said the company had already improved conditions at the two factories in Huizhou and created an occupational safety system. He said 'observation candidates' - workers who have high cadmium levels and need regular checks - could work and live normally.

'The only thing is that we need to ensure they don't come into contact with cadmium again,' he said.