Wintek workers strike over deaths, pay

January 20, 2010 | 10:31

Tags: #strike

Companies: #apple #nokia #wintek

Chinese workers at screen manufacturer Wintek have gone on strike following a dispute regarding bonus payments and the use of hazardous substances, with the potential to affect the production of Nokia and Apple smartphones.

As reported over on Engadget, around 20 per cent of the company's workers walked out on Friday following rumours that Wintek was to cancel its annual bonuses for the second year in a row as a cost-cutting measure - despite having been promised that last year's lack of bonus was a one-off event.

While not getting money you were expecting - and potentially relying on - is a situation that's obviously going to cause frustration, the workers have even more concerns to raise: the use of n-hexane, a hazardous substance banned in most countries - to clean the LCD panels created by the company - something the workers are blaming for the paralysation and even death of several employees in 2009.

Wintek, which produces LCD screens for OEMs including Apple, Nokia, and Huawei, doesn't deny its use of n-hexane but does dispute it had anything to do with the deaths and paralysations that some workers suffered. Despite this, the company has stated that it has ceased its use of the dangerous substance, as of August last year. Wintek has also stated that the promised bonuses will be making their way to its workers, and the strike has now been called off.

Although the issues raised by the striking workers would appear resolved, the alleged link between the use of dangerous chemicals and the deaths of several workers raises the spectre of the hidden cost of high-tech devices: the lives and well-being of the workers who create them. Whether the news will convince OEMs to source their screens elsewhere from now on remains to be seen.

Do environmental and human rights issues influence the products you buy? Or are these isolated incidents that are now being taken care of? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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