(fwd from Saul Thomas) Sacked workers besiege factory

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Mon Dec 16 08:32:12 MST 2002


Thursday, December 21, 2000

Sacked workers besiege factory

Sidelined: posters plastered on the fence demand management respect the law
and provide for their welfare. Picture by William Kazer


Hundreds of laid-off workers have been ringing a Nanjing garment factory,
protesting against the sale of the company in the latest sign of industrial
unrest on the mainland.

Workers have been gathering outside the Nanjing Down Products Plant on and
off since being told in October that the state-run factory was being sold
and they were losing their jobs.

The plant's gates are covered with posters opposing the sale and job
losses. They also call for the company's management to take care of those
employees thrown out of work.

"We need to eat. We are out of work with no money," reads one of the
posters covering the gates of the plant that once employed 1,000 workers.

"State assets have disappeared," another poster says. "Respect the law,"
declares another.

Workers said the plant, which made down garments and raw materials for the
domestic and export markets, had been sold to another state enterprise for
40 million yuan [USD 4.8 million]. But that still left debts of about eight
million yuan.

"This used to be a good business," one of the workers said. "Where did the
money go?"

A handful of people inside the otherwise deserted factory were seen loading
boxes on to trucks.

An official of the Nanjing

Municipal Economic and Trade Commission confirmed the plant had been sold.
He said the factory was in difficulty but had not been formally declared

The official did not identify the buyer or confirm the price of the sale.
Officials declined to say what would happen to the plant's employees.

Workers said they had been receiving partial payment of their wages since
October but those payments would soon be stopped.

"I've been getting 230 yuan [USD 28] a month but that will end next year,"
said one of the workers. "Work for a lifetime and this is what you get,"
another angry worker said.

Other workers said the head of the plant, Song Jingyun, had not advised
them of any other plans for their future welfare. "He won't talk to us,"
one said.

China is undergoing a painful restructuring process for its ailing state
industry. It has been cautiously testing its bankruptcy law and the
reorganisation of troubled companies.

"They are testing the waters little by little," a foreign specialist in
corporate restructuring in China said. "As long as it's not too
concentrated it's manageable."

But the specialist said the number of such cases was likely to rise. "I
expect you'll see the pace pick up over the next two years," he said.

Similar complaints have been reported in other provinces. Managers of
bankrupt state-run factories have been accused of colluding with buyers in
selling the firm's assets cheaply.

Sale of state assets normally requires independent evaluation by
professional accountants. But it has been a common problem that managers of
state firms manipulate the evaluation for their personal gain.

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