Chinese workers demanding severance pay have held their American boss hostage inside his Beijing medical supply plant for the past four days.
Chip Starnes, co-owner of the Coral Springs, Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, has been held in the facility without sleep as workers demand severance pay similar to that given to 30 of their co-workers after their department was phased out. The labor unrest comes amid rumors that the entire plant is being moved to Mumbai, India to lower labor costs. Further lower labor costs, we should say. Via the Associated Press:
“I feel like a trapped animal,” Starnes told The Associated Press on Monday from his first-floor office window, while holding onto the window’s bars. “I think it’s inhumane what is going on right now. I have been in this area for 10 years and created a lot of jobs and I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen.”
Reports suggest roughly 80 workers have been blocking the exits of the building while demanding wire transfers. Starnes says he did not plan to layoff the nearly 100 workers. Police officers and officials from the U.S. embassy are on the scene, according to spokesman Zhao Lu of the Huairou Public Security Bureau:
“As far as I know, there was a labor dispute between the workers and the company management and the dispute is being solved. I am not sure about the details of the solution, but I can guarantee the personal safety of the manager.”
In China, this type of scene is not uncommon. Most of the 30 people laid off by Starnes had been working at the plant for nearly 9 years. Officials do not think Mr. Starnes will be harmed. Christian Murck, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, told the AP:
It happened more often say 15 years ago than today, but it still happens from time to time,” he said. “It rarely leads to personal harm to the managers involved, but there are cases when it has in years past.”