American Boss Held Hostage Over Labor Dispute

An American boss has been held hostage for four days. Chip Starnes, 42, the co-owner of a Coral Springs, Florida company called Specialty Medical Supplies said Monday that he’s essentially being held for ransom by approximately 80 employees of a plant outside the Chinese capital of Beijing.

The pay dispute apparently began because Specialty Medical Supplies is closing a plastics division of the plant and moving it to Mumbai, India — likely a measure linked to Beijing’s soaring costs. According to a Fox News report, Starnes arrived on Tuesday to lay off the last 30 workers.

The American boss now being held hostage believed that the severance packages were generous — and, apparently, so did the other employees in a separate division of the plant. Amid rumors that the whole plant was moving to India, those employees trapped Starnes in his office to demand similar packages.

Apparently they didn’t understand or didn’t believe that they weren’t being laid off too.

Chip Starnes told the Associated Press on Monday that he felt like a trapped animal.

Claiming that he was tortured by lights shining into his office as well as pounding on the walls to keep him from sleeping, he said that he was forced to sign agreements on Saturday to pay severance packages to the remaining workers — even though they aren’t really being laid off.

The workers expect to receive wire transfers on Tuesday.

At the moment, we only seem to be getting one side of the story. Chinese officials aren’t saying much. But various media reports have quoted a Chinese security spokesman Zhao Lu of making this rather dry comment:

“As far as I know, there was a labor dispute between the workers and the company management and the dispute is being solved. I am not sure about the details of the solution, but I can guarantee the personal safety of the manager.”

So is Chip Starnes really being held hostage, or did he just have buyer’s remorse after making a really bad deal?

What are your thoughts on the American boss still being held hostage for money that may or may not arrive on Tuesday?