Poisoned workers at Suzhou plant demand compensation from Apple
Angry workers suffering from chemical poisoning at a factory that supplies components for Apple iPads say they are taking their demands for compensation and medical care to the central government and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.
More than 100 migrant workers from United Win Technology in Suzhou, Jiangsu, a unit of Taiwanese-based Wintek Corporation, suffered from muscular atrophy and nervous system damage in 2008 and 2009 after using hexyl hydride, also known as n-hexane, as a cleaning agent.
The workers are demanding a formal apology from Apple, lifetime medical treatment for the effects of the poisoning and fair compensation, saying their health is still affected and that some have permanent disabilities.
'Our representatives left for Beijing earlier this week and we will also write to Steve Jobs. He should be responsible for our suffering,' said Wan Qiuying, a 24-year-old worker at the Wintek plant.
On January 15 last year, hundreds of workers protested in front of Wintek's factory in Suzhou Industrial Park, the Yangtze River Delta's largest manufacturing hub.
The workers said they were not given safety instructions or warned of the dangers of using n-hexane, and worked in closed, windowless rooms for more than 10 hours a day. They were not given goggles or masks, only cotton gloves. They said their Taiwanese bosses had never been in the rooms where the chemical was used.
Many of the workers quit after receiving compensation packages of around 80,000 yuan (HK$95,000). They also had to sign agreements saying the company would not be held responsible if their health worsened in future, according to the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour, which supported the workers.
Wan said: 'The 80,000 yuan compensation is not enough to cope with our future medical costs. My limbs still feel weak and my hands can't even hold chopsticks or a toothbrush. I have lost the ability to work. I can't find another labouring job again, let alone afford expensive medical treatment. If I submit to the company now, I will only die from the poisoning, helpless.'
Another worker, He Juan, said: 'The company refused to offer us further treatment in hospital. We were too weak to work and could only rest at the plant. The management even threatened to fire us, saying we were absent from work.'
Wintek in Taiwan said yesterday that the current compensation offer and treatment programme complied with the mainland labour law.
'We offered several months of free medical treatment to the workers,' a company spokesman said. 'The local hospitals have already proved that most of them have recovered. Those demanding further compensation and treatment should go to the medical authorities to prove that the symptoms have reoccurred.'
The workers said the local hospital refused to offer them reappraisals. The No 5 People's Hospital in Suzhou, where the workers were sent in 2009, declined to comment yesterday.
Workers who suffered chemical poisoning got 80,000 yuan payments
The number of migrant workers affected was more than: 100