Chip Starnes, an American executive of Coral Springs-based Specialty Medical Supplies, is free and headed back to the States after being held hostage by his workers for the past week at the company's medical supply plant in Beijing, China.
Starnes, 42, had been kept from leaving his office by disgruntled employees who had blocked off every exit in the plant in shifts while demanding the same severance packages their coworkers in a phased-out department had received.
Starnes was able to negotiate his freedom, though it's unclear what was promised to the workers.
The executive visited the Beijing plant to announce that about 30 workers were laid off due to the company's ceasing to make a specific product. Those workers were let go with a generous severance package.
The remaining workers were worried they too would be laid off but without the same severance their laid off coworkers had received, even though Starnes gave them his word they would not be getting laid off.
However, the two sides came to some kind of agreement, and Starnes, who called the ordeal "humiliating," was set free on Thursday.
During Starnes' time captive in his own office, the workers had deprived him of sleep by shining lights and banging on the windows of his office.
"I feel like a trapped animal," Starnes told the Associated Press on Monday from his first-floor office window. "I think it's inhumane what is going on right now. I have been in this area for ten years and created a lot of jobs, and I would never have thought in my wildest imagination something like this would happen."
Workers taking their bosses hostage seems to be a common occurrence in China, as some reports have noted.
According to Starnes' wife, he is expected to arrive at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 11:30 p.m. Thursday.
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