Thu, Aug 01, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Chinese workers strike against India takeover: media

AFP, BEIJING

More than 5,000 Chinese workers at a China-US tire manufacturer have gone on strike against the US parent company’s US$2.5 billion takeover by an Indian firm, Chinese state media reported.

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co announced last month that it would be taken over by Apollo Tyres Ltd of India, which would make the combined group the seventh-largest such firm in the world.

However, thousands of staff at Cooper Chengshan Tire Co (固鉑成山輪胎), a joint venture in China’s Shandong Province, have walked out in protest, Xinhua news agency said late on Tuesday.

It quoted union leaders as saying they wanted to block the huge transaction, which saw Cooper shares leap on the New York Stock Exchange.

Workers are concerned tha the Indian company will be unable to repay the debt it would take on in the highly leveraged acquisition and their interests could be damaged, Xinhua said.

Employees have become increasingly vocal in China recently, with numerous labor disputes occurring in the past years, but the cause of the Cooper Chengshan strike is unusual as protests are normally focused on pay and working conditions.

It is the latest incident to hit a foreign joint venture after Chinese workers held a US factory executive hostage for nearly a week in late June over a plan by his US-based medical supply company to lay off 30 workers.

Cooper holds 65 percent of the joint venture and China’s Chengshan Group has 35 percent.

“I cannot imagine what the company will become after it is taken over by the Indian company,” Cooper Chengshan worker Ma Rufu (馬汝福) said, according to Xinhua.

Ma added that Apollo’s annual profits were not enough to repay the interest on the debt.

“How can our welfare be sustained [after the acquisition]?” he said.

Zhang Huaqian, another Cooper employee, said: “We shall fight to the end with anyone who allows us to lose our jobs.”

Xinhua quoted Yue Chunxue (岳春學), the director of the Cooper Chengshan labor union, as saying it had been given no information about the deal.

“This is in contempt of Chinese law and disrespect[s] Chinese workers,” Yue said, adding that the union wants the deal scrapped.

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