- (Image: Reuters/Robert Galbraith/Files)
When Steve Jobs announced his retirement, the world praised him for his illustrious career. But when workers at a factory in China that made Apple touchscreens got sick, Steve Jobs ignored their pleas for help, according to an article on GlobalPost.com.
Two years ago, workers at a factory in Suzhou, China, were poisoned when Taiwanese electronics supplier Wintek, which was working under contract with Apple to make the touchscreens, replaced alcohol with N-hexane in the manufacturing process to speed up production.
Prolonged exposure to N-hexane has been known to cause damage to the central nervous system, and when workers affected by the chemical wrote to Jobs, asking him for help in medical treatment and compensation for lost wages, they allegedly never heard back from anybody at Apple, much less Jobs.
“I think they knew the chemical was dangerous,” said a female factory worker who asked not to be revealed when she was interviewed by ABC in an investigative report on the factory last year. “But if they used another chemical, out production would not have increased. Using N-hexane was more efficient.”
“Steve Jobs was indifferent to our poisoning and evaded his responsibility,” said Jia Jingchuan in a separate statement released by the Hong Kong labor group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM), which called on the new Apple CEO to address the situation.
“There should be policies to protect the poisoned workers and pay the health expenditures for the victims,” Jia said.
The GlobalPost interviewed Jia, who said he is not optimistic about Apple doing anything for the workers. Jia was told by doctors that his illness makes factory work unsafe and he had to quit. As a result, he has no medical insurance and must pay out of pocket for his medical bills.
Apple has acknowledged that Wintek used hexane in unsafe conditions during the touchscreen production process. However, the tech giant has continued to work with the manufacturing company.
“We required Wintek to stop using n-hexane and to provide evidence that they had removed the chemical from their production lines,” Apple said in a Supplier Responsibility report released earlier this year.
“In addition, Apple required them to fix their ventilation system. Since these changes, no new workers have suffered difficulties from chemical exposure.”
For the at least 137 workers who have “suffered difficulties,” however, the appointment of Tim Cook as the new Apple CEO does not bring much hope.
“Jobs retiring doesn't have much to do with our case,” said Wan Qiuying, one of the workers who got sick while making Apple touchscreens.
“Nothing happened then, now time has passed, we didn't have expectations.”
Last year, Apple came under fire when it was revealed that FoxConn, a Chinese manufacturing company that makes the majority of Apple products, had a problem of employees committing suicide in abundance. At least twelve people killed themselves. Several more tried, but were prevented by co-workers.