Cadmium claimants take case to former boss

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am

Six mainland workers who say they suffered heavy metal poisoning at work made an unsuccessful attempt yesterday to meet their former employer, battery maker Gold Peak Industries chairman Victor Lo Chung-wing.

Liang Hua-qing brought along her 18-month-old daughter, whose skin has turned black and blue, and waited with five of her former colleagues and 40 activists outside Mr Lo's office at Hong Kong Polytechnic University for six hours, but to no avail. Mr Lo is the university council chairman.

The six workers claimed they were among 1,000 employees of Gold Peak's three factories in Guangdong found to have been poisoned last May by cadmium, a high-level cancer-causing agent.

Thirty-seven women who said they were contaminated while pregnant said their children were born weak, some had developed rashes on their faces and necks, and some failed to speak by the age of five. They are hoping to seek more compensation from Mr Lo.

The 1,000 workers have received compensation ranging from $3,000 to $30,000, depending on their level of poisoning, but Wong Yuet-may, a spokeswoman for Globalisation Monitor, which helped stage yesterday's protest, said this was not enough.

The six workers are now seeking a one-off payment of $200,000 each. Globalisation Monitor is also seeking a monthly allowance of $680 for about 400 former workers, including the six at yesterday's protest, until they find jobs.

In a company statement last night, Gold Peak said the protesters were making exaggerated and unfounded accusations.

It said only 11 workers on the mainland had been diagnosed with mild cadmium poisoning, while the other 400 had been classified as 'under observation', which meant they were not poisoned and could lead a normal life.

The company added that all workers affected had been compensated beyond what was required by mainland law.