Hundreds of Chinese workers protest after Microsoft Nokia deal

Reuters

By James Pomfret

DONGGUAN, China, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Hundreds of workersshouted slogans on Wednesday outside a Nokia factoryin southern China to protest against what they called unfaircompensation after the company sold its mobile telephonesbusiness to Microsoft Corp.

Lack of trust in employers has often led Chinese workers tobalk at takeovers they fear will harm employment conditions.

Workers massed outside the factory gates in the industrialcity of Dongguan said they were battling new contracts worseningemployment terms that they had been forced to sign after theU.S. software giant bought Nokia's unit in a September deal.

"We will definitely continue to fight until we get what'sfair," said a young male worker wearing a checked shirt, whogave only his surname, Zhang.

Local riot police beat up four workers on Wednesday morningand took them away, several witnesses told Reuters.

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

Nokia is continuing to talk to the protesters, theFinland-based company told Reuters in an e-mailed statement.

"Our manufacturing operations in Dongguan continue," itsaid. "To accommodate the temporary situation, we have alsoadjusted our operations in other manufacturing facilities."

But six protesters interviewed by Reuters said they had notheard from management at all.

"They haven't shown any sincerity in talking to us, and theywon't do anything until things reach a critical stage," said oneworker, who gave only his surname, Yang, and said he had workedat the factory for two years.

Nokia balked at what it saw as a demand for severancepackages to workers who would not be fired, said an industrysource with direct knowledge of the protest, who asked not to benamed to avoid inflaming the situation.

"A small group of employees is taking this as an opportunityto demand severance packages despite the fact that their jobswill continue," the source said, adding that he did not expectlay-offs as a result of the deal with Microsoft.

The protesters represent just a few hundred of the 5,000workers in the Dongguan factory, the industry source said.

Factory workers interviewed by Reuters said the Microsoftdeal affected the compensation of thousands of workers, a claim the industry source characterised as untrue. Nokia declined toelaborate on its statement.

Nokia agreed in September to sell its devices and servicesbusiness and license its patents to Microsoft after failing torecover from a late start in smartphones.

The sale is set to close in the first quarter of next year,after regulatory approvals.

Recent industrial unrest at the China units of foreign firmshas ranged from strikes to hostage-taking.

In July, workers at a joint venture of U.S.-based CooperTire & Rubber Co and state-owned tyremaker ChengshanGroup went on strike after Cooper agreed to be bought by anIndian firm.

Protesters said they doubted the ability of Indian tyremakerApollo Tyres Ltd. to bail out Cooper's debts, andChengshan eventually asked to dissolve the partnership.

In June, an American factory boss was held hostage in aBeijing plant for days by dozens of employees demandingseverance packages.

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