Axed staff protest at payments by store

Hong Kong iMail, Friday 29 December 2000

AN estimated 300 workers blocked a department store in Zhuhai in southern Guangdong to protest against the amount of compensation they had received on losing their jobs, a mainland-backed Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday.

The protest erupted at 9am on Tuesday when former workers of Zhuhai's General Merchandises gathered before the entrance of the group's department store, the Hong Kong Commercial Daily said.

They had been dismissed as part of an effort to save the debt-ridden group, the paper said. Scores of public security officials were called to the scene, but no incidents were reported.

According to a workers' representative, the axed staff should have each on average been paid about 1,800 yuan (HK$1,699), but the amount had been slashed by the new owner—a merchant from Chaozhou in Guangdong—to only 900 yuan.

After negotiations, the workers dispersed to allow the store to open for business, but they assembled again at night to press their claims. The state-run group was formerly led by a party cadre, Zhang Miaoran, who was arrested in September on charges of corruption.

The report quoted a Zhuhai official as saying that the protest had been staged because workers were irritated by people with malicious intentions. Selling the company was part of the government's programme to retreat from the retail market, the official said.

Zhuhai, which neighbours Macau, is one of the five special economic zones spearheading China's market reforms and its attempts to attract foreign capital.