updated 01:05 pm EST, Tue February 22, 2011
Apple, Wintek said to owe debts
Five workers claiming to represent poisoned Wintek workers have issued a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Reuters reports. Wintek has admitted to using a chemical called hexyl hydride, also known as n-hexane, to help speed up production of Apple touchscreens between May 2008 and August 2009. N-hexane evaporates faster than alcohol, which Wintek has since returned to as a cleaning agent. Before it cut off n-hexane however a number of Wintek workers complained about serious health issues; Apple and Wintek have admitted to 137 hospitalizations.
In an English version of the letter, the Wintek workers accuse Jobs of being "evasive" about the poisonings, lacking the "courage to admit what has happened." They also charge Wintek with using n-hexane in violation of Chinese law, leading to symptoms such as pain, numb feet and weakened limbs. Apple and Wintek profits have risen in the tens of millions each month as "the accumulated outcome of workers' lives and health," the letter observes.
Workers at the affected Wintek factory in Suzhou, China tell Reuters that they want Apple to deal more thoroughly with the situation. "I hope Apple can respect our labor and our dignity. I hope they can stand up and apologize to us," says Jia Jingchuan, a technician. Other employees claim that Wintek has not given enough compensation to victims, avoided promising future coverage of medical bills, and even put pressure on people who took compensation to leave their jobs.
"We are unable to cope with the medical costs of treatment in the future," says another Wintek worker, Guo Ruiqiang. "We can only stay in the factory and see what happens. We just feel very helpless now."