Boss Exits Barricaded Factory After Deal With Workers

PHOTO: US businessman Chip Starnes
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The U.S. businessman who says he was held hostage in his own Chinese factory for nearly a week finally left his office this morning.

Employees at Specialty Medical Supply on the northern outskirts of Beijing had allegedly kept Chip Starnes, 42, barricaded in the factory since Friday after hearing rumors that the company would be moving to Mumbai, India. Fearing that he would flee the country before a compromise could be reached, they set up barricades at the facility in order to negotiate a deal to save their jobs.

The company scheduled a news conference for this morning, but a manager said Starnes had already left the facility and returned to his hotel, adding that he was "very tired."

Workers Barricade US Factory in China

Chu Li Xiang, representative of the Workers Union in Huairou district, said that the standoff had a "satisfactory conclusion for both sides."

But she was unwilling to disclose the exact amount in the settlement in an attempt to protect the workers' privacy.

Deliberations ended at 5 a.m. local time with 97 workers signing settlement agreements.

During his apparent confinement, Starnes made statements to the media through his barred office window. He said he felt like a "trapped animal" and that the workers were taunting him, as well as depriving him of sleep by banging on the door and shining lights through the window.

Starnes told The Associated Press that a deal had been reached overnight that would pay the scores of workers severance packages similar to the ones given to the laid-off workers, even though he had ensured them that they were not being laid off.

Upon his return to his hotel, Starnes wrote a text to The Associated Press, "Yes!! Out and back at hotel. Showered ... 9 pounds lost during the ordeal!!!!!!"

Workers have denied that they mistreated or imprisoned Starnes, claiming that they not only let him walk around the inside of the factory but also brought him sufficient food and drink during his stay.

Despite the ordeal, Starnes says he wants to continue his business in China and hopes to sign new contracts with some of the workers who he says held him hostage.

Several union representatives described the standoff as an example of an ordinary labor dispute.

While local police made no efforts to interfere, they did ensure Starnes' safety during the negotiations.

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