updated 10:45 am EST, Mon January 18, 2010
Wintek said to be poisoning employees
Workers at a Wintek factory in Suzhou, China have gone on strike, also damaging equipment and vehicles in protest, says China Daily. The movement is said to include over 2,000 people, some of whom caused the property damage during an incident on Friday. Protesters also blocked a road and threw rocks at police at the time, though no serious injuries are known to have resulted.
While some reports have suggested that the strike is about a canceled bonus for 2009, the workers add that Wintek has subjected them to poor conditions. People are being overworked and underpaid, according to accusations, and moreover exposed to a dangerous chemical, hexane. The substance is used to clean touchscreens, but can cause failure of the nervous system with enough chronic exposure.
A smell thought to be hexane has persisted in the factory, says one worker, who claims that four people may have died as a result of long-term exposure. The local government says it turned up no deaths in an investigation, and that 47 people affected by hexane poisoning received appropriate treatment. Workers dispute this however, noting that Wintek claims one death was triggered by congenital heart disease, when his peers had not heard of any problems.
Wintek is notable as a touchscreen supplier for the iPhone. The strike could as a result slow shipments of the device, and subsequently reduce both Apple and Wintek profits. The latter company has been accused of a number of other worker abuses in the past; in May people complained about safety issues, unpaid overtime, and hundreds of dubious job losses.