A week later and finally Chip Starnes, from the US, president of Specialty Medical Supplies, is able to leave his office, after being barricaded in by his own employees at a factory in China.
We are not used to news of industrial unrest in China and we tend to think of China’s growth and prosperity being unstoppable with us in Europe being mired in strikes and street protests over public sector cuts. However, things started to change last year in China and there are deepening problems of “labour oversupply”. Also, in recent years, there have been increasing incidents of unofficial industrial action in China, with workers being frustrated but the lack of democracy within their unions and taking direct action as a result.
In May 2010, a prolonged strike at a Honda car parts factory resulted in suspension of operations at all four of Honda’s Chinese production bases, with demands for pay rises of 24 per cent.
But what of Mr Starnes? Speaking from behind the bars, claiming how he was ‘very disappointed’ that no one had come to help him, however he continued to be light hearted admitting he had tried to escape over the gates but was soon forced back into his office.
The office doors had been blocked and the workers continually banged on the building to prevent Mr Starnes from sleeping.
The US businessman was held captive after not giving the workers the severance packages that they had demanded and some employees complained that they had not been paid for two months.
The dispute had been raised owing to rumours that the factory was closing down and moving to India where apparently there were lower production costs.
Police refused to intervene, it seems, on the basis that it was a civil matter.