Win for Thor victims

May 7, 1997

Win for Thor victims

British chemical company Thor Holdings agreed on April 8 to pay 20 South African workers suffering from mercury poisoning 9.4 million rand (US$2 million). The settlement ends a battle that began in 1992, after three employees at the company's Cato Ridge plant in KwaZulu-Natal suffered serious neurological injuries from exposure to mercury.

Thor moved its operations from Britain after being criticised for over-exposing workers to mercury. In South Africa, Thor continued its criminal disregard for workers' health. At least three workers died from the effects, and many others are now incapacitated. The company "recycled" workers: when mercury levels in their blood reached dangerous levels, they were given other work until it dropped enough for them to go back to work with mercury.

Richard Meeran, the lawyer representing the workers, said the settlement was a victory and a warning to multinational firms that they could not abuse workers in other countries.

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