Hundreds of Chinese Nokia workers protest at Microsoft deal

DONGGUAN, China Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:25am EST

1 of 2. Police and security guards stand outside a gate of a Nokia factory during a protest of around one hundred factory workers in Dongguan, Guangdong province November 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/James Pomfret

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DONGGUAN, China (Reuters) - Hundreds of workers massed outside a Nokia factory in southern China on Wednesday to protest against what they called unfair treatment following the sale of the company's mobile phones business to Microsoft Corp.

Lack of trust in employers has often led Chinese workers to balk at takeovers they fear will worsen employment conditions, and the confrontation in the industrial city of Dongguan marked the latest incident in a wave of industrial unrest at Chinese affiliates of foreign manufacturing firms.

Workers outside the factory gates said they were battling to change new contracts offering them worse employment terms that they said they had been forced to sign after the September deal between the U.S. software giant and the Finnish handset maker.

"We will definitely continue to fight until we get what's fair," said Zhang, a young male worker who gave only his surname.

Riot police beat up four workers on Wednesday morning and took them away, several witnesses told Reuters.

But in emailed comments to Reuters, Nokia said interaction between protesters and police had been "restrained (and) peaceful", adding it was continuing to talk to the protesters.

About 30 police officers kept watch as workers clad in white Nokia uniforms held up banners with the slogans "Legally protect our rights" and "Demand fair compensation."

"Our manufacturing operations in Dongguan continue," it said. "To accommodate the temporary situation, we have also adjusted our operations in other manufacturing facilities."

Six protesters interviewed by Reuters said they had not heard from management.

"They won't do anything until things reach a critical stage," said another worker who gave only his surname, Yang, and said he had worked at the factory for two years.

DENIALS

The precise nature of the employees' grievances was not immediately clear, but an industry source with direct knowledge of the protest said Nokia had balked at what it saw as a demand for severance packages to workers who would retain their jobs under Microsoft.

The source, who declined to be named, said he did not expect lay-offs at the 5,000-worker plant as a result of the deal with Microsoft, and denied claims from factory workers interviewed by Reuters that the Microsoft deal affected the pay of thousands of employees.

Nokia, which declined to elaborate on its statement, agreed in September to sell its devices and services business and license its patents to Microsoft after failing to recover from a late start in smartphones.

The sale is due to close in the first quarter of next year.

In July, workers at a joint venture of U.S.-based Cooper Tire & Rubber Co and state-owned tiremaker Chengshan Group went on strike after Cooper agreed to be bought by an Indian firm.

Protesters said they doubted the ability of Indian tiremaker Apollo Tyres Ltd. to bail out Cooper's debts, and Chengshan eventually asked to dissolve the partnership.

In June, an American factory boss was held hostage in a Beijing plant for days by dozens of employees demanding severance packages.

(Writing and additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Additional reporting by Li Hui and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Clarence Fernandez; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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Comments (10)
tmc wrote:
It’s a shame Reuters is only reporting one side of tis story. There are always at least two sides. It very well may be that during the transition workers will be changed, reorganized, re-something to new positions that pay less or have other reduced benefits. But the corporation can easily “spin” that no one is being fired.
Come on Reuters, I had hoped you were the last balanced news. Or are you just trying to use controversy to sell advertising too?

Nov 20, 2013 7:59am EST  --  Report as abuse
Overcast451 wrote:
Do any of these companies have any clue of how POPULAR a 100% domestically produced phone would be?

We are tired of big corporations enslaving people in developing countries for profit.

Slave-sourcing needs to end.

Workers that US companies employ to make their goods, even if sub-contracted should be BOUND to pay US minimum wage. Either to the worker – or the difference in fines to the government to subsidize unemployment.

Nov 20, 2013 8:33am EST  --  Report as abuse
scanpolar wrote:
To me Microsoft is a technical clone of American Monsanto chemical company.Both have strict connections to NSA security politics. Therefore I can understand the workers worry about their future.

Nov 20, 2013 9:39am EST  --  Report as abuse
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