On November 10, 2005 workers whose health has been adversely affected by the chemical cadmium while working at Gold Peak Industrial Holding Ltd’s (hereafter GP) Xianjin and Chaoba factories handed over a letter to the GP Fund board managers. The contents of the letter were chiefly concerned with compensation and medical costs and included a number of clear and reasonable demands. These included: medical checks for the children of female workers who had come into contact with cadmium while employed at the said factories; past, current and future medical costs of the workers, the issue of future employment and the difficult financial circumstances that most of the affected workers now find themselves in.
In total, the letter put forward eight reasonable requests to your company and furthermore stated that the GP Fund set up by your company to deal with these issues should be activated immediately and that it should be administered in a fair and transparent manner. In a telephoned reply on November 25 2005, a company representative stated that “[T]his is a complex matter and we cannot provide any answers in the short term”.
This example of the ongoing procrastination of GP with regard to the entire process of compensation has only served to increase the levels of doubt and indignation among the GP workers. At the outset of this case, GP clearly stated it would meet all its responsibilities with regard to the health and welfare of the workers. Indeed, the eventual establishment of a compensation fund in August of this year gave the workers considerable cause for optimism. But the actual administration of this fund has, wittingly or unwittingly, demonstrated serious limitations on the prompt delivery of compensation and humanitarian assistance to the affected workers. To add insult to injury, the recent process of physical re-examination in order to check cadmium levels has imposed outrageous and medically unnecessary demands on the dignity of the workers.
We request that you refer to the Chinese version of this letter for a full summary of the problems that have arisen as a result of GP’s behaviour during the past months. The following is a shortened summary of the demands presented in that letter.
* Children of affected workers: GP should compile and make available to all those concerned a definitive list of the number of children affected and potentially affected by their mothers’ employment at Xianjin and Chaoba factories. GP should also agree to medical checks and expense incurred as a result of the children’s parents coming into contact with cadmium.
* Livelihood compensation should be based on the cost of living and wage levels in Huizhou and humanitarian assistance paid to affected workers in economic difficulties. Those workers who have demanded their jobs back should be offered employment in conditions that meet the standards stipulated in China’s labour and health and safety laws.
* Medicine and food costs incurred as a result of contact with cadmium should be met by the GP Fund.
* GP must provide written assurances accepting its continuing responsibilities to the affected workers even if the Xianjin and Chaoba factories close down or move to another location.
* The current compensation fund is capped at US$1.3 million. This is insufficient to meet the lifelong expenses that the affected workers will have to meet as a result of their employment at Xianjin or Chaoba and consequent contact with cadmium. The fund should be increased.
* To date GP has failed to operate the compensation fund in a clear and transparent manner. GP and the Xianjin and Chaoba factory managements must fully inform the affected workers and concerned organisations of the application procedures and all related procedures.
* The compensation fund should not include compensation resulting from its legal obligations.
* All costs incurred to the workers as a result of re-examination procedures, including transport and accommodation, should be met by GP. GP should provide transport when circumstances require. Future check ups and related procedures should be conducted at the Guangdong Province Occupational Disease Prevention and Treatment Hospital and the results made available as soon as possible. Workers who refused a previous check up due to unreasonable and intimidating requests by those carrying out the procedure – such as demands to remove all clothing for a urine test – should be offered another examination at the aforementioned Guangdong hospital.
We request that the GP set a date to meet with representatives from supporting organisations as soon as possible to provide an answer to the points raised.
Again, we stress that this letter is a summary of the Chinese version and in the event of any conflict in language or interpretation thereof, the Chinese version shall take priority.