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ITUC Appeal - International Commemoration Day 2008 (ICD) Declaration

28 April International Commemoration Day (ICD)
Honk Kong Unions Focus on Cadmium
Cancer Fears in Chinese Factories

Paris, 28 March, 2008
PDF of this release: http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9j.EN.pdf

As part of this years 28 April International Commemoration Day (ICD) for Dead and Injured Workers, the ITUC in conjunction with the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU) will highlight the plight of workers who are exposed to cadmium poisoning when making batteries for Gold Peak Batteries International Limited, which is 53.4% owned by Gold Peak (Holdings) of Hong Kong.

See [6]: [http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9d.EN.pdf].

Gold Peak Batteries has become a symbol of an industry that endangers the lives of workers and damages their health yet denies the facts and refuses to recognize its responsibilities.

The situation of workers making batteries for Gold Peak received international attention last year during the lead up to ICD. Since then, the case was brought to the attention of senior officials and corporate leaders attending meetings at the OECD, UNEP, ILO and of research and medical institutions, underlining the fact that human lungs, kidneys and bone tissue are particularly vulnerable to long term exposures to cadmium, which is a known carcinogen for humans.

Gold Peak continues to operate, replete with reports of exposure abuses, deficient monitoring and suspicious risk analysis by company and local authorities, complicated by worker fatalities, sickness, unresolved disputes, strikes, court actions and non-reinstatement of workers to their jobs. Workers have also been denied full and fair compensation. The Hong Kong affiliate of the ITUC, the HKCTU, along with other local groups, continues to be the subject of a libel suit brought by GP to gag local activists.

The ITUC is drawing attention to the case today at the World Health Organisation (WHO) when global trade union organizations expect to meet with senior officials in Geneva to discuss the implementation of the WHO Global Plan of Action for Workers' Health, which contains provisions for dealing with occupational cancers.

Last February two of the largest toy companies, Toys "R" Us Inc, and Mattel Inc. agreed to phase out nickel-cadmium batteries and there is growing international pressure for other companies such as Canon, Casio, Fuji, JVC, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Nikon, Olympus Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Sony and Toshiba to do the same.

Gold Peak, along with its three Chinese subsidiaries - Huizhou Power Pack Company Limited (惠州超霸電池有限公司), Huizhou Advance Battery Technology Company (惠州先進電池有限公司) and Shenzhen Jetpower Batteries Limited (深圳捷霸電池有限公司) produces and markets batteries, electronic components, cables, acoustic and light-fitting materials.

In addition to its operations in China and Hong Kong, the company has a manufacturing network that extends to Singapore and Malaysia and a marketing network that reaches Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Philippines, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, The Netherlands, Taiwan and the U.K.

Cadmium-related issues involving Gold Peak have received wide publicity throughout Asia. Fatalities have been reported, as have sixteen cases of confirmed cadmium poisonings and 400 more with excessive exposure. An additional 600, mostly young female workers have been denied annual medical check ups and continue to be at risk.

After the worker poisoning was exposed, Gold Peak claimed to have halted cadmium-nickel battery production but has instead sub-contracted its work to a factory in Hunan province with sub standard health and safety. see http://www.globalmon.org.hk/en/news/gp-battries-cadmium/what-you-can-do/write-letter-to-gp-chairman-mr-lo/).

For more information contact
Lucien Royer [royer@tuac.org]

Background information: Gold Peak of Hong Kong & cadmium campaign background:
[1] PDF Copy of the 18 April, 2007 release about the trade union cadmium campaign:
[http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9i.EN.pdf].
[2] PDF Copy of the 1st Wednesday 21 March, 2007 release about the trade union cadmium campaign:
[http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9h.EN.pdf].
[3] Copy of a 28 April 'company' profile of Gold Peak Industries:
[http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9d.EN.pdf]
[4] Globalisation Monitor (GM): [http://www.globalmon.org.hk/en/],
PO box 72797, Kowloon Central Post Office, Hong Kong, Tel (852)6448 3943.
[5] GM' "Report on the Gold Peak Cadmium Poisoning Case", March 2007:
[http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9f.EN.pdf].
[6] SOMO – The Netherlands: Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations:
[http://www.vbdo.nl/index.php] or contact Francis Weyzig [f.weyzig@somo.nl].
[7] SOMO's Gold Peak corporate structure:
[http:/www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9e.EN.pdf].
[8] SOMO's background of GP's functioning and operations in China and its related activities
in Hong Kong, Taiwan, The Netherlands and other countries:
[http://www.global-unions.org/pdf/ohsewpQ_9g.EN.pdf].
[9] Some corporate buyers of GP batteries: Canon, Casia, Fuji, JVC, Kodak, Konica Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, Ricoh, Sony and Toshiba
[http://www.microbattery.com/tech-gp-digicam.htm].

Other Sources of Information about the Gold Peak case:
[10] IHLO Hong Kong Office and campaign Page:
http://www.ihlo.org/C/GP%20Workers/GPWorkers_index.html
[11] International Metalworkers Federations:
http://www.imfmetal.org/main/china/index.cfm?n=544&l=2&c=14248
[12] International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine & General Workers Unions

Additional information about cadmium risks:

Human lungs, kidneys and bone tissue are particularly vulnerable to long term exposures to Cadmium, which is a known carcinogen for humans. The dangers of cadmium are well known, with reports of the now famous 'itai-itai' disease in Japan dating back to the early 1940's. A simple "Cadmium" web search, when connected to the ILO, OECD, WHO or UNEP, will yield a wealth of authoritative information sources, attesting to the high level of concern in the medical and scientific community about the occupational, public health and environmental effects of Cadmium in many of its chemical configurations. Much of the information points directly to the need for Cadmium to be banned or its use severely restricted.

Most of literature on hazards posed by Cadmium reveals a strong association between the known physical effects of Cadmium with those exhibited or reported for the current Chinese victims. The substance is currently under review by the UN 'Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM)' which could lead to possible restrictions by such UN bodies as the ILO, UNEP and the WHO. International civil society and trade union bodies, including the ITUC, have already called for a phasing out and replacement of Cadmium products.

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