Apple contractor Wintek sued by 44 employees over alleged poisoning

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poisoned by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.



A total 44 workers based in Suzhou, China, plan to sue the Taiwanese manufacturer, according to Stratfor Global Intelligence. The report, relayed by Barron's, states that at least 62 Wintek workers have been hospitalized since August of 2009 after exposure to N-hexane. The chemical reportedly can cause nerve damage and paralysis.



The workers claim that the factory manager in China forced the workers to use n-hexane instead of alcohol because the chemical dries faster and leaves fewer streaks on glass. That factory manager has since been fired.



The report noted that "lawsuits of any kind are uncommon in China." Typically, disputes are settled "quietly behind closed doors."



The issue was the subject of a violent strike at the Wintek plant earlier this year. In a demonstration in January, more than 2,000 workers in Suzhou destroyed their equipment and damaged vehicles at the plant in response to a number of deaths allegedly from overexposure to toxic chemicals. Protesters blocked off a road and threw rocks at police.



Days later, the strike was settled, and production of products from the plant went unaffected. Wintek offered bonuses to its employees, which was reportedly enough to get them back to work.



Like almost every electronics company, Apple works with overseas partners to create and assemble its devices. Last year, an audit of factories Apple contracts with in China showed that more than half were not paying valid overtime rates for those that qualified. In addition, 23 of the 83 surveyed factories weren't even paying their workers China's minimum wage.



Wintek, in particular, came under fire in 2009, as workers at the company took their case directly to Apple over what they saw as illegal and abusive working conditions. Members of the National Federation of Independent Trade Unions in Taiwan protested in front of Apple's Taipei offices last May, hoping the Mac maker would influence Wintek.



In March, it was alleged that a shortage of touchscreen panels for Apple's iPad led the Cupertino, Calif., company to contract with Wintek for new iPad screens. Since its launch on April 3, the iPad has been a popular item and has been consistently sold out in many of the company's retail stores.



One recent report claimed that Wintek will handle 40 percent of the touch panels in Apple's next-generation iPhone. The device is expected to be announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference, scheduled to begin June 7 at San Francisco's Moscone West.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 27
    elmcitywebelmcityweb Posts: 109member
    Adobe must have some operatives in China...
  • Reply 2 of 27
    zindakozindako Posts: 468member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ElmCityWeb View Post


    Adobe must have some operatives in China...



    I concur.
  • Reply 3 of 27
    sequitursequitur Posts: 1,892member
    Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poised by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.



    I suppose the chemical was taking their picture and it made them look like they were poisoned. Or the spellcheck wasn't working.
  • Reply 4 of 27
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,529member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by sequitur View Post


    Dozens of Wintek workers claim in a new lawsuit that they were poised by a chemical called n-hexane while cleaning glass screens of Apple's iPhone in a Chinese factory.



    I suppose the chemical was taking their picture and it made them look like they were poisoned. Or the spellcheck wasn't working.



  • Reply 5 of 27
    steviestevie Posts: 956member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post




    The workers claim that the factory manager in China forced the workers to use n-hexane instead of alcohol because the chemical dries faster and leaves fewer streaks on glass.





    Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.
  • Reply 6 of 27
    t0mat0t0mat0 Posts: 58member
    Are we talking the glass and digitizer? Ie they're cleaning the front and back of the glass, then putting the digitizer on?
  • Reply 7 of 27
    sheffsheff Posts: 1,407member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Stevie View Post


    Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.



    Will eat away margins or raise prices, but on the whole I think I agree.



    So here is a thought: If this was happening in Russia - the workers would drink half of the alcohol they were given for glass cleaning. I don't know if that is the case in china, but that could be the reason why they got switched to another chemical? Maybe someone drank that as well.



    Either way apple needs to make sure this type of stuff is not happening anymore. If you are already saving on wages, you shouldn't compromise worker safety.
  • Reply 8 of 27
    icarbonicarbon Posts: 196member
    The MSDS form for n-hexane does not list any neurological effects from exposure in lab animals, but there are plenty of other bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).



    If workers drinking the stuff is an issue, use isopropanol, its much cheaper than n-hexane, has a limited level of toxicity, is better blocked by simple latex gloves, and is more oleophobic than ethanol, making it a lovely compromise... not that it's without health effects (the main reason people like to use ethanol -- not too toxic... aka, you can drink it and just be hungover, IPA will make you go blind and destroy your liver, if you survive)
  • Reply 9 of 27
    mazda 3smazda 3s Posts: 1,529member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iCarbon View Post


    The MSDS form for n-hexane does not list any neurological effects from exposure in lab animals, but there are plenty of other bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).



    If workers drinking the stuff is an issue, use isopropanol, its much cheaper than n-hexane, has a limited level of toxicity, is better blocked by simple latex gloves, and is more oleophobic than ethanol, making it a lovely compromise... not that it's without health effects (the main reason people like to use ethanol -- not too toxic... aka, you can drink it and just be hungover, IPA will make you go blind and destroy your liver, if you survive)



    http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthguide...cognition.html



    Quote:

    Long-term exposure to n-hexane may cause disturbances in sensation, muscle weakness, and distal symmetric pain in the legs. Clinical changes include muscle atrophy, decreased muscle strength, footdrop, numbness, prickling, and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. Neurological investigations reveal decreased motor nerve conduction, neurogenic damage and swelling of peripheral nerves with thinning of the myelin sheath. These symptoms may get worse for 2 to 3 months after cessation of exposure. Changes in vision may also be a symptom of chronic exposure to n-hexane



  • Reply 10 of 27
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Hey Steve, the REAL Erin Brockovich called, she wants to borrow your jet!







    All seriousness, "there bad effects (liver damage, cancer, lung damage, skin irritation, bad for fishes, etc).", yikes! How long does the residue last. I mean, we're touching that glass and as our mothers keep telling us, "You don't know where that finger's been!"



    "Will eat away margins or raise prices, but on the whole I think I agree. Either way apple needs to make sure this type of stuff is not happening anymore. If you are already saving on wages, you shouldn't compromise worker safety."



    Apple needs to build a plant is southern Arizona, near the border. If it is plate glass washers Apple needs, and it's work Americans won't do, that's where Apple can produce it home grown so to speak with the aid of all those illegal er excuse me undocumented workers!
  • Reply 11 of 27
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,873member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Stevie View Post


    Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.



    Or at least countries that have better legal systems and worker/environmental protections.
  • Reply 12 of 27
    ajitmdajitmd Posts: 365member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Stevie View Post


    Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.



    Apple makes hi value added products with good profits margins. It has enough cash to set-up automated plants in the US to minimize the impact of labor costs here. It is immoral that Apple has chosen instead to us foreign slave labor, paid in slave wages and working in slave labor conditions.



    Many countries that manufacture hi value goods choose to do a lot of the manufacturing at home and still do well. Scandinavia and Germany (2nd largest exporter in the world) are examples. It takes investment in skills and automation.



    I can see where California may not be the best place for manufacturing, but other states like Texas, have no state income taxes, low labor costs, low land costs, low utility costs, etc.
  • Reply 13 of 27
    postulantpostulant Posts: 1,270member
    What's wrong with a little poisoning? Nerve damage and paralysis? Walk it off, chump. My grandpa used to have Agent Orange for breakfast as a soldier.
  • Reply 14 of 27
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    ... and it's even in the veggie burgers of you lefty commie pinkos!
  • Reply 15 of 27
    s4mb4s4mb4 Posts: 267member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Stevie View Post


    Apple needs to start manufacturing in the United States. Now.



    then we can pay $1599 for a WiFi 16GB iPad and a very reasonable price of $4999 for a 17" MBP.
  • Reply 16 of 27
    s4mb4s4mb4 Posts: 267member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Postulant View Post


    What's wrong with a little poisoning? Nerve damage and paralysis? Walk it off, chump. My grandpa used to have Agent Orange for breakfast as a soldier.



    grandpa huh? are you 4 years old?
  • Reply 17 of 27
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post


    then we can pay $1599 for a WiFi 16GB iPad and a very reasonable price of $4999 for a 17" MBP.



    That is why I am getting mine before the current lot of dingbats we have in Washington decide we are not paying them enough for all their gracious spending, that we are not appreciative of but should be thankful for, and therefore the dingbats add a 20% VAT tax to all products in the E-US of A!



    Probably not alone in that thinking... mad dash to buy cheaper MBP, iPad and iPhone... Apple should have a banner year - Captialism's last gasp...
  • Reply 18 of 27
    dualiedualie Posts: 331member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by s4mb4 View Post


    grandpa huh? are you 4 years old?



    Hey wise guy, Agent Orange was used in Vietnam nearly fifty years ago. So it's entirely possible that the guy is a young adult who's grandpa was there.
  • Reply 19 of 27
    8corewhore8corewhore Posts: 833member
    Apple Insider is breaking a long tradition of American journalism by reporting on labor issues and anything that might upset China.



    It's disgusting how these companies treat their slave labor.



    The difference between US policy towards Cuba, Venezuela, China, Vietnam is that Cuba and Venezuela refuses to allow US companies to exploit their people.



    Thanks AI for even reporting this.
  • Reply 20 of 27
    min_tmin_t Posts: 74member
    Relax people. In 20 years, China will be the new global economic leader in personal spending. The US will be relegated to being the new cheap manufacturing destination for all the electronic products. We will get our fair shot at being the toxic waste dump for the world. My tarot cards have given me this glimpse of the future.
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