Workers Planning To Sue iPhone Screen Supplier Over Alleged Poisoning
A recent research report by Stratfor Global Intelligence has revealed that close to 44 employees at Taiwan-based Wintek shall be filing a lawsuit against their employer over the use of certain poisonous chemicals in the manufacturing process that has led to several dozen employees being hospitalized since August 2009.
Wintek is a supplier of touch panels for the iPhone. According to the report, the chemical in question, n-hexane, is used to clean iPhone screens. It is being alleged that Wintek replaced a safer alcohol product with n-hexane at the behest of Apple since n-hexane was known to dry faster and thereby ease out "manufacturing bottlenecks".
"Stratfor notes that at least 62 Wintek workers have been hospitalized since August 2009 due to n-hexane poisoning, a chemical “which can cause nerve damage and sometimes paralysis.”…[A]ccording to some media reports, the factory manager in Suzhou made the workers use the chemical because it dries faster than alcohol, while other reports said it was used because it leaves fewer streaks than alcohol. The piece notes that the factory manager has since been fired."
Wintek is also the supplier of iPad touchscreens and it is not evident if the company uses the same chemical in the production process for iPad as well. Nevertheless, the issue can have legal as well as business implications for Apple, which has seen demand for iPad skyrocket in recent times after the extremely successful launch of the device in the US. The iPad is expected to go on sale internationally in the last week of May.
The recent development has once again raised the issue of labor abuse among employees in emerging economies like China. Apple has been criticized in the past for being indirectly responsible for human rights violations by its suppliers. The company's strict demands to keep its new launches under tight scrutiny led to the suicide of a Foxconn employee last year. The employee had reportedly been harassed after an iPhone prototype went missing from the plant. With the recent case at Wintek being linked to Apple's demands for quicker production runs, the company may find itself in a legal tangle once more.
However, it needs to be noted that it is a standard practice among companies to expect their business partners to adhere to production deadlines and maintain confidentiality on business issues. However, the onus is upon the individual suppliers to ensure that they do not breach labor laws and human rights in the process of satisfying their customers. Hence, it may not be fair to point fingers at Apple for the unfortunate turn of events.
What is your take on this issue?
- Foxconn Workers On Strike Over iPhone 5 Production
- Apple Enforces “Supplier Code of Conduct” After Child Labor Discovery
- Workers Poisoned Making Touchscreen Hardware
- Chinese Supplier Gets Dumped By Apple For Fraudulently Using Underage Labor
- iPad 2 LCD And Vibration Motor Show Up On Parts Supplier’s Website