updated 06:25 pm EDT, Thu May 13, 2010
Group claims poisoning cover up
A group of 44 workers are planning to file a lawsuit against Wintek, a Taiwan-based manufacturer that has been involved in iPhone production, according to the analyst firm Stratfor Global Intelligence. An investor note suggests 62 Wintek employees have been hospitalized for poisoning by N-hexane, a chemical allegedly utilized to clean iPhone touchcreens.
A separate report from the activist group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) suggests the poisonings actually occurred in the Suzhou, China facilities of Wintek subsidiary United Win. The events appeared to have been publicized only after an employee strike, which was primarily related to annual bonuses. The strike reportedly escalated into mayhem as workers "smashed vehicles and company facilities."
The SACOM report suggests that Wintek intended to keep the poisoning a private matter, although it became public after workers arranged medical evaulation at the Hospital for Occupational Diseases for Prevention and Treatment. Workers accuse the company of opening emergency doors in departments to dilute the chemicals before inspection by authorities.
Although Apple maintains a strict code-of-conduct for third-party manufacturers, SACOM criticizes the company for failing to enforce the standards. Wintek is also accused of requiring mandatory overtime, pushing typical work weeks past 70 hours without a day off. Interviewed employees allegedly lacked any knowledge of code-of-conduct terms from any brands such as Apple or Nokia.
"Lawsuits of any kind are uncommon in China, where disputes are usually addressed quietly behind closed doors," Stratfor observes. "Much more common is labor abuse, and given the rising power of workers, we can expect to see more such suits, which provide legal outlets for social tension, a constant concern for Beijing."[via Barron's]