Speciality Medical Supplies CEO Chip Starnes On Being A Hostage In His Own Chinese Factory
Wednesday marks day six of being held captive in a Chinese factory for Chip Starnes, Speciality Medical Supplies CEO. He was interviewed about being held hostage during the morning on CNBC's Squawk Box.
It all started last week when Starnes went to China to layoff 30 workers, all of whom got severance packages. Now, somewhere around 100 other workers who haven't been laid-off are demanding the same severance packages as security due to rumors that the whole plant would be shut down.
"Everything is a standstill right now is where we're at," said Starnes, intentionally delivering the interview from behind the bars in the window in his office for dramatic effect.
Starnes said that the people themselves literally won't let him leave, as other reports have said.
"I'm on lock down. We have a situation that has to be worked out with the workers here. It's considered a civil dispute, you know, ah, monetary related between us and the workers," said Starnes.
Starnes attempted to go the other day, and the employees locked arms in front of him, preventing him from leaving.
"They are under the impression if I leave, that I'm not going to come back, the factory is going to shut down, and they're not going to get their severances, severance packages," said Starnes.
He called the first couple days "surreal," saying that he thought they could get it worked out. Starnes said that he's luckily in the middle of some pretty good negotiations, and that he believes that it'll all be over soon.
"They got kind of spooked. I was, um, considering moving, ah, you know, a portion of our business over to Mumbai, India, ah, where just because I've been experiencing some labor shortages," said Starnes.
Disappointment filled Starnes when he realized the Chinese government wouldn't be coming to help him, saying that they look at things differently. In China, they believe that the people run the country, not the government, he said, and that if you're out in the rural areas it becomes "a little bit of the 'Wild Wild West'" when it comes to civil disputes.
"If you play out here, you've actually got to, got to play in their play box," said Starnes.
If the employees are successful in having their demands met, Starnes said that it will be extremely difficult to pull the cash Specialty Medical Supplies' cash flow.
"That's an unexpected expense and quite a big one…to re-encourage them or get their, ah, you know, believing that you're not going anywhere," said Starnes.
According to Starnes, his conditions are "fine right now."
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