American boss held captive by Chinese employees released

Reuters, BEIJING

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - Page 15

Chinese factory workers yesterday released their US boss, held captive for a week in the Beijing suburb of Huairou, after a compensation dispute was resolved, a company official and union representative said.

Specialty Medical Supplies president Chip Starnes was allowed to leave the factory and was resting in a hotel, the company official said.

The workers had demanded severance packages identical to those offered to 30 employees who were recently laid off, even though the firm planned no further layoffs, Starnes said earlier.

“The mass labor dispute incident for this unit has been resolved,” said Chu Lixiang (楚力祥), director of the rights and interests department of the Huairou District Labor Union.

“Both sides have come to an agreement through joint efforts made by Starnes and the workers’ side. The results have turned out to be satisfactory,” Chu added.

The workers’ demands followed rumors that the entire plant was being closed after the company’s plastic injection molding division began a move to India to lower production costs.

“As of now my boss feels exhausted after two harsh days and has gone back to a hotel, okay?” Specialty Medical general manager Xing Shuang told Reuters Television. “This is all I have to say.”

Starnes spent the week inside the plant, which produces alcohol pads and plastic blood lancets for diabetics, behind barred windows.

He could not be immediately reached for comment.

The stand-off highlighted one of the lesser-known risks of doing business in China — that trust between workers and management, and faith in the legal system, is often low.

Starnes, whose company is based in Florida, flew to China on June 18 and his detention started on Friday last week.