Fri, Jun 15, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ex-RCA workers protest ahead of court hearing

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

Former Radio Corp of America (RCA) workers and labor rights advocates yesterday protested in front of the American Institute in Taiwan on Taipei’s Xinyi Road, urging the US government to condemn the company and enhance supervision of US corporations overseas.

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Administration found that the site of a former RCA plant in then-Taoyuan County was contaminated with chlorinated organic solvents and other toxic chemicals, after the company had illegally dug wells to bury waste, contaminating tap water used by employees and nearby residents.

Last year, the Taiwan High Court ordered RCA, along with Technicolor, and General Electric Co (GE) and Thomson Consumer Electronics, which later acquired the Taoyuan plant, to collectively pay NT$718.4 million (US$23.99 million at the current exchange rate) to 486 of RCA’s former employees to compensate for the health hazards they were exposed to between 1970 and 1992.

The case is currently being appealed at the Supreme Court, which is to hear oral arguments in the case on Thursday next week.

Former RCA employees’ attorneys have found that GE has submitted an amicus curiae brief detailing the views of the US National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and US National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) on the case.

The document argues that a guilty verdict could have a negative impact on Taiwan’s economy, because it could raise investor concern about the nation’s “unpredictability” and make it an unpopular investment choice, said Liu Nien-Yun (劉念雲), a representative from the Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries.

The two groups are highly impartial in their briefs, in which nothing is said about the pollution the companies have caused, she said.

“They are unqualified to be amici curiae. We will not accept trading our environment and workers’ health for better trade relations with the US,” Liu added.

Although the former workers also won at the Taipei District Court in 2015, the companies are still trying to prolong the legal battle, said Liu Ho-yun (劉荷雲), who heads a self-help group organized by former RCA members.

“Do NAM and NFTC not know how those companies are still paying the expenses for pollution recovery projects at the former site of the Taoyuan plant? Do they not know that ever more former workers are dying from illnesses? Have they not noticed the increasing number of plaintiffs in the case? Where is their conscience?” Liu Ho-yun said.

As the most deadly case of occupational illness — involving both the greatest number of deaths and victims — the lawsuit is historically significant for the nation’s workers, she said.

In the 2015 ruling, the court said that more than 1,300 of the firm’s employees had been diagnosed with various types of cancer and 221 of them had died.

Following the relaxation of the Labor Standards Act (勞動基準法), which is expected to increase overwork, “if the case fails to set a positive example for future lawsuits on occupational illness, workers could face even tougher work conditions,” Liu Ho-yun said

The Supreme Court should increase the compensation and livestream the oral arguments online as the lawsuit affects every worker in the nation, she added.

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