26 August 2011, Hong Kong

The poisoned workers at Wintek, an Apple supplier in Suzhou, China, have been awaiting a response from Steve Jobs, the former CEO of Apple. Regrettably, until his resignation yesterday, there has been no answer from him. The poisoned workers hope the new Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will live up to the corporate social responsibility and provide them remedies. Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) supports the cause of the victims and calls on Tim Cook to address the grievances of the poisoned workers and provide remedies for them.

A strike erupted at the Taiwanese-owned electronics manufacturer Wintek, which produces touch screens for the iPhone, in early 2010. The rumour of massive poisoning was confirmed by the local authorities after the strike. According to the workers, about 200 of them were poisoned by the chemical called n-hexane which leads to nerve damage. Apple only admitted the gross labour rights violation in its Supplier Responsibility Progress Report one year later. The company stated there were 137 workers hospitalized due to the poisoning and that all of them had been successfully treated. In reality, 2 years on after the poisoning, the workers still feel weak and suffer from symptoms of relapse including sweaty hands and feet, and leg cramps. Mr. Jia Jing-chuan, a former engineer at Wintek, confided that he remains worried about his health even now. He spends about CNY 500-600 (USD $78-94) for health supplements per month because he feels weak. Mr. Jia has recently resigned from Wintek and is taking rest in his hometown.

“Steve Jobs was indifferent to our poisoning and evaded his responsibility. The new CEO should live up to the corporate social responsibility. There should be policies to protect the poisoned workers and pay the health expenditures for the victims. Our predicament is solely inflicted by the negligence of Apple though we contribute so much to the revenue of the company. I also call on Apple to reform its audit system to prevent similar tragedy,” said Mr. Jia angrily.

“I hope the new Apple CEO can assure the company will take care of our health problems in the future,” Mr. Guo Rui-qiang, another victim of the poisoning, requested. Guo expressed bitterly that he has difficulties in looking for a new job owing to his poor health condition. “Many jobs require me to stand for long hours, but my health condition does not allow me to perform standing-operations anymore,” he added.

The massive poisoning at Wintek is a serious breach of the labour law and Apple’s code of conduct. Corporate social responsibility is no more than rhetoric if there is no remedy to the workers for the code infringement. SACOM demands Apple under the leadership of Tim Cook has dialogue with the workers as soon as possible.