Gold Peak Industries (Holdings) Ltd should properly and immediately compensate its cadmium-affected workers

Protest against Gold Peak Industries (Holdings) Ltd labour rights violations and its legal action against labour groups and union!

In the past few years, several plants of GP Batteries International Limited (“GP Batteries”), a subsidiary of Gold Peak Industries (Holdings) Limited (“Gold Peak”), failed to provide a safe workplace for its workforce and as a result, ten workers from mainland China and three from Hong Kong, were diagnosed with cadmium-poisoning while another 400 from mainland China and 21 from Hong Kong were categorized as having cadmium levels in their urine higher than the acceptable standard.

Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal commonly found in industrial workplaces and it can remain in human body for decades once inhaled or ingested. Cadmium-poisoned patients commonly suffer from dizziness, vomiting, muscle pains, bone disease and in severe cases; patients can die from cancer and kidney damage. Though there are no explicit symptoms for people who carry cadmium levels higher than the acceptable standard, they can also suffer from various types of illnesses, and possible organ damage after a period.

This case was first reported in 2004, but, despite widespread media attention, worker protests and several attempts at negotiation, so far Gold Peak has disappointed its workers and the general public in its handling of the situation; for example:

1. Apart from a one-off subsidy of 3,000 to 8,000 Yuan per worker issued in September 2004, Gold Peak has not compensated workers who suffer from higher-than-normal cadmium levels, even though they have to face health problems and difficulties to find jobs (as other factories do not want to bear the responsibility of hiring workers suffering from occupational illness). These workers suffer physically, mentally and financially and have every right to claim compensation from Gold Peak. However, Gold Peak has been refusing to even talk with the workers concerning compensation.
2. It is Gold Peak’s responsibility to arrange an annual health examination for the affected workers at a recognized medical institute. After many calls for thorough and objective testing, in late 2005, workers were sent to a hotel for a medical check up. The workers (mainly women) were required to undress, shower and give urine samples under the supervision of some unidentified persons. It is possible that such a humiliating “check-up” was given in order to scare off workers from asking for future check-ups. Gold Peak, as the organizer of this procedure, must take up the full responsibility to ensure the proper practice of it. Workers and labour groups in HK have voiced their discontent to Gold Peak concerning such arrangements, but Gold Peak has never acknowledged the problem.
3. Gold Peak announced that it had stopped producing nickel-cadmium batteries after the outbreak. However, it has been discovered that Gold Peak, in fact contracted its cadmium-battery production to a factory in Hunan province. Workers at this factory were neither told of the dangers of cadmium, nor provided with basic safety facilities. In other words, Gold Peak appears to be deliberately repeating the same errors and ignoring its corporate responsibility.
4. Gold Peak has taken a hostile attitude towards its workers since the start of the workers protests. In September 2004, Gold Peak and the local Chinese government authorities alleged that workers, who attempted to complain about the case to central authorities in Beijing, could be held responsible for “criminal responsibilities”. On 28 June 2006, Gold Peak applied to the High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to issue a summons against two labour NGOs (Globalization Monitor and the Neighbourhood & Worker’s Service Center) and the local trade union Confederation (The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions), which had been assisting the workers, for defamation. The writ concerned a postcard in support of the Gold Peak Workers claims for compensation and assistance which was distributed on 4 June in Hong Kong. Such an action is believed to threaten those in Hong Kong who help the workers to fight for justice.

The above examples and the continued lack of redress provided by Gold Peak show the need for continued action. Gold Peak’s legal action against supporters of the Gold peak workers must not be allowed to stop the solidarity already built up with these courageous groups of workers.

We remain committed to ensuring justice for the workers and call for the following:

1) Gold Peak should immediately provide the affected workers decent compensation;

2) Gold Peak should stop the humiliating body-checks and provide recognized and professional medical checkups to its workers;

3) Gold Peak should stop threatening its workers and apologise for any harassment, injustice and discrimination directed at them. It should undertake to effect genuine negotiations with the workers involved.

4) Gold Peak should withdraw its legal action against the three Hong Kong groups.

16 August 2006

Hong Kong Liaison Office (IHLO) for the International Trade Union Movement
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
Justice and Peace Commission of the HK Catholic Diocese
Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior
China Labour Bulletin
China Labour Action
OMCT - World Organisation Against Torture
Hung Hom St. Mary's Chruch Social Concern Group
Cheung Chau Our Lady of Fatima Chruch Social Concern Group
Tai Po Immaculate Heart of Mary Church Social Concern Group
Lok Fu St. Patrick's Church Social Concern Group
Tsing Yi St. Thomas the Apostle's Church Social Concern Group
Kowloon Bay St. Joseph's Church Social Concern Group
Tsz Wan Shan St. Bonaventure's Church Social Concern Group
Ma On Shan St. Francis Church Social Concern Group
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants
Union Of Hong Kong Post Office Employees
Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union
Hong Kong Dumper Truck Drivers Association
Social Welfare Organizations Employees Union
Concrete Industry Workers Union
Construction Site Workers General Union
Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union
Hong Kong Domestic Workers General Union
H.K. Clerical Grades Civil Servants General Union
Government Mod 1 Staff General Union
Hong Kong Buildings Management And Security Workers General Union
Hong Kong Baptist University Faculty and Staff Union
The Chinese University Of Hong Kong Employees General Union
Cleaning Service Industry Workers Union
Association Of Government Technical And Survey Officers
New World First Bus Company Staff Union
Government Employees Solidarity Union
Hospital Authority Employees General Union