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Wintek, Apple Supplier, May Boost Poisoned Workers’ Payout

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Wintek, Apple Supplier, May Boost Poisoned Workers’ Payout
Apple considers the poisoning “a core violation” of worker safety, and required Wintek to stop using the chemical and provide evidence that it has been removed from production lines, the company said in its 2011 Apple Supplier responsibility report. Photographer Rupert Hartley/Bloomberg

Feb. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Wintek Corp., a supplier of displays to Apple Inc., may pay more money to workers in China poisoned by chemicals while making touch-screen panels, Chief Financial Officer Jay Huang said. The stock fell the most in two months.

“If they feel they need more compensation to be satisfied, then we’re willing to discuss it case by case,” Huang said in a phone interview today. The Taichung, Taiwan-based company has already paid about 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) to 91 workers poisoned after dealing with the chemical N-hexane, he said.

Workers at a Wintek Group factory in Suzhou, China became ill in 2009 after using N-hexane to clean display panels, the company said in a May 17 exchange statement. Employees wrote to Steve Jobs, Chief Executive Officer of Apple, appealing for help after the poisoning, Reuters reported yesterday, citing a letter signed by people who claimed to represent the workers.

“This case happened a long time ago, so the impact is more short-term noise,” said Kylie Huang, an analyst who rates Wintek and its competitor TPK Holding Co. “outperform” at Macquarie Securities Ltd. in Taipei. “I don’t think Apple will take orders away from Wintek, though they may put pressure on the company to raise its standards.”

Wintek shares dropped 4.4 percent to NT$51.90 at the 1:30 p.m. close of trading today in Taipei, the most since Dec. 15. The benchmark Taiex index lost 1.7 percent and Taipei-based TPK, which also supplies touch-panels to Apple, dropped 1.8 percent.

Huang said he’s not heard of the letter to Jobs.

Apple Visit

“Only a few” workers are seeking further payouts, with most having fully recovered or accepted compensation, he said.

An Apple representative visited employees at the Wintek affiliate, United Win Technology, to listen to worker’s demands, China Daily reported today, citing a worker named Hu Jie.

Jill Tan, an Apple spokeswoman in Hong Kong, didn’t answer two calls to her cellphone today. Carolyn Wu, a Beijing-based spokeswoman, didn’t answer a call to her cellphone either.

Of the 137 workers affected by the poisoning, 56 still work for the company and the rest have left, Huang said. Some workers left after accepting compensation in accordance with local regulations that require the highest payouts for employees who can no longer work, he said.

Apple considers the poisoning “a core violation” of worker safety, and required Wintek to stop using the chemical and provide evidence that it has been removed from production lines, the company said in its 2011 Apple Supplier responsibility report released earlier this month.

Wintek also supplies touch panels to HTC Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Culpan in Taipei at tculpan1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Young-Sam Cho at ycho2@bloomberg.net.

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