Boss held hostage over labor dispute in Beijing

An American executive has been held hostage for four days in his factory in a suburb of Beijing over a labor dispute, local authorities said Tuesday.

Chip Starnes, president of Specialty Medical Supplies Beijing Co Ltd, is being held by about 100 workers demanding pay at its 10-year-old factory in Huairou District. He has been held there since Friday afternoon, according to a statement from the district government's publicity department.

"It's a dispute. I've laid off the final 30 workers of one segment of our business, injection molding," the Beijing News quoted Starnes as saying.

"We've closed that down now. It took us nine months to do that, " he said.

Starnes is not allowed out of the factory compound but can walk within the grounds in the daytime.

The company is closing its injection molding division and moving the factory to India, according to Starnes.

Some machines of the alcohol pad division, another division of the company, have also been packed and are ready to be transported.

Workers feared the company would move the equipment at the weekend without informing them and would not pay two months worth of salary that is owed, which led to their collective action on Friday, according to the statement.

Starnes has held several rounds of talks with the workers at meeting rooms and in the factory compound with mediation from the district labor administration and labor union.

An agreement is yet to be reached.

The factory has suspended production and all the equipment has been packed for asset evaluation. The company has not bought any materials for production at present, a deputy general manager of the company surnamed Huang was quoted in the Beijing News.

"The workers are in a panic. They feel the boss is likely to flee," said Huang.

The company is also involved in a wage arrears dispute worth 2.7 million yuan ($436,893), said Huang.

  Source: xinhua  2013-06-24

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