EARTH Thailand

High Court upholds ruling on ex-RCA worker redress

Taipei Times 28 October 2017 | Jason Pan  

MORE DEFENDANTS: An investigation found that GE took over RCA before selling it, meaning it was in control when the workers said they were exposed to chemicals

The Taiwan High Court yesterday upheld a verdict ordering Radio Corp of America (RCA) and its affiliates to pay NT$718.4 million (US$23.7 million) to its former Taiwanese employees and their families.

Yesterday’s ruling increased the compensation from NT$564.45 million in the first ruling in 2015, with stakeholders closely watching the court’s decision in one of the nation’s longest-running legal battles between a major corporation and workers.

RCA, which operated several production plants in Taiwan from 1970 to 1992, was in 1986 taken over by General Electric Co (GE), which later sold it to Thomson Consumer Electronics, the US subsidiary of France-based Thomson Multimedia, which is now called Technicolor SA.

The court included GE, Technicolor and Thomson as defendants, ordering them, along with RCA, to pay compensation to 486 former employees.

In the first ruling, the judges wrote that they were unable to determine whether RCA was a subsidiary of GE, based on RCA’s business registration, and omitted GE as a responsible party.

However, an investigation found that GE took over RCA before selling it to Thomson, which took ownership of an RCA production plant in then-Taoyuan County.

The judges ruled that GE was in control of RCA’s operations in Taiwan during the period in which the workers said chemicals from the plants caused them to develop cancer and other illnesses.

While the plaintiffs were comprised of 486 former employees, yesterday’s ruling said three workers began work at RCA’s Taoyuan plant after 1988, adding that GE would not be required to compensate the three, but would be required to contribute to NT$717.7 million in compensation for the remaining 483 workers.

Members of the RCA Self-Help Association, which represented the workers, yesterday afternoon gathered in front of the High Court’s Taipei branch to hear the decision, smiling and clapping when it was read to them.

They had sought damages of NT$2.7 billion from RCA, GE and Thomson.

RCA operated plants in then-Taoyuan County, as well as Hsinchu and Yilan counties, which employed tens of thousands of people to produce color TVs and other consumer electronics using 31 kinds of organic solvents, including trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethene, exposure to which increases the risk of cancer, the verdict said.

In 1998, the Environmental Protection Administration found that the site of the former RCA plant in Taoyuan was contaminated with chlorinated organic solvents and other toxic chemicals, due to the company illegally digging wells to bury waste, which contaminated tap water used by the workers and nearby residents.

Between 1992, when RCA shut down its plants in Taiwan, and 2004, when 519 members of the association filed the civil lawsuit, more than 1,300 of the firm’s Taiwanese employees have been diagnosed with various types of cancer, with 221 of them dying, the 2015 ruling said.

Former Radio Corp of America (RCA) workers shout slogans with their lawyers, RCA Self-Help Association president Liu Ho-yun, front left, and Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries organizer Liu Nien-Yun, right, in front of the Taiwan High Court in Taipei yesterday. Photo: Chien Jung-fong,