U.S. businessman Chip Starnes has been freed by the Chinese workers who recently held him hostage. Starnes was held by the workers for six days in the factory founded by him near Beijing. After gaining his freedom, Starnes is planning to hire back some of the workers who held him for six days.
Why Was Starnes Held Captive?
Workers in China are concerned with layoffs and unpaid salaries which have sparked disputes and distrust between employees and employers, and have ultimately led to extreme steps taken by the workers. The Chinese workers are protesting for their labor rights, which although protected by law, are perpetually violated in the real world.
Starnes is a co-owner of a Coral Springs, Florida based specialty medical supplies company. He visited the plant last Friday to talk about payments for 30 workers who were departing the company as a result of layoffs. The layoff was the result of shifting the firm’s plastic-injection-molding division to Mumbai, India, where production costs came down, says a report from USATODAY.
One hundred employees who were not yet laid off were concerned that the entire facility would be shuttered, and demanded similar severance packages. They also conveyed other issues like unpaid wages, which were denied by Starnes. So the workers locked him inside the plant.
Agreement Between Starnes and Chinese Workers
According to Beijing news reports, an agreement was made between both parties in which 97 workers were given two months’ salary and compensation equaling $300,000. In an interview with the Associated Press, Starnes said that he had no option but to surrender to the demands of the workers. He also described his experience of the past six days as “humiliating, embarrassing.”
Starnes said, “We’re going to take Thursday off to let the dust settle, and we’re going to be rehiring a lot of the previous workers on new contracts as of Friday.”
The United States businessman might be cautious after this incident about investing in China, where many Chinese managers have been beaten to death or injured by fuming workers over the past few years.
According to Geoffrey Crothall, communications director for China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based labor rights group, the court system in China is effective, but various tactics can be used by employers to delay proceedings. He said the only way to resolve this is that ordinary workers should stand in the factory union election and force management to hear them.