Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Factory workers in China protest over pay, use of toxic chemicals+
Jan 15 08:00 AM US/Eastern
HONG KONG, Jan. 15 (AP) - (Kyodo)—Thousands of workers in a factory in eastern China's Jiangsu Province protested Friday over the cancellation of annual bonuses and poor work safety environment, a human rights watchdog and local media reported.

The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said 10,000 workers staged a strike over the apparent cancellation of yearend bonuses for the second consecutive year due to the economic slump, and more than 100 of them were injured after clashing with hundreds of police officers.

The crowd later dispersed after the company promised to reconsider the bonuses.

An unidentified worker, who claimed to have been poisoned by the factory's unregulated use of chemical n-hexane, said more than 200 workers have suffered the same problem since July last year, and about 40 of them remain in hospital, the center said.

The worker said the authorities have knowledge of the chemical use but have done nothing about it.

The factory in Jiangsu's Suzhou Industrial Park, United Win (China) Technology, is a subsidiary of Taiwan's liquid crystal display manufacturer Wintek Group, Hong Kong's Cable TV said.

Footage showed angry workers demolishing the factory's signs and rallying outside the factory during the strike. Photographs posted on mainland websites showed police officers standing by with batons and shields.

A factory worker identifying himself only by the surname Zhu told Kyodo News the strike began in early morning and he left when police started using force against the crowd.

"Police started beating up people, men and women," Zhu said over telephone. "At least five to six workers were injured when I left."

He said business has recovered in the past year and the workers are disappointed that there was no bonus for 2009 year in addition to there having been no bonus for 2008.

Regarding the use of n-hexane, Zhu said at least three people, including an engineer, have died from poisoning and a few others have been paralyzed.

"I don't dare to work here any longer, I will quit after Chinese New Year," he said.

Jay Wuang, Wintek's financial department manager, said the incident was not a strike but rather workers "expressing their opinion" and he said the company will pay the bonuses for 2009. "It was a misunderstanding," Wuang said over telephone. "We have stopped using n-hexane once we learned of the workers' health problems. We have 13,000 workers in the factory but we cannot confirm if anyone has died from exposure to n-hexane."

He said "a handful" of workers were sick but they were all cured.

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