By Michelle Gregory, Communications Manager, The TCM Group

A sense of confusion and mystery surrounds the case of Chip Starnes. The American executive is currently being held ‘hostage’ in his factory in Beijing. Sky News reported that according to Chinese Union officials, Mr Starnes, has failed to pay wages for two months, and staff at the factory fear the business is about to close without any promise of severance packages. Mr Starnes has denied the workers’ allegations of unpaid wages and put it down to a "miscommunication".

While Mr Starnes says he has made no secret of his desire to downsize the company, he claims that a misunderstanding caused the workers to believe that the factory in its entirety is to be shut down causing the workers to take this drastic action.

This case seems to be an extreme example of when internal communication and change management has gone very wrong indeed!

Mr Starnes appears to have been visited over the last 5 days by union officials and lawyers. ABC news reported that Chu Li Xiang, representative of the Workers Union in Huairou district, insists that this is just an ordinary labor dispute. "We are still in the process of mediating. China is a very big country, if we let him go, how are we going to find him?" said Chu. But Mediation should always be a voluntary process. At TCM we always make sure that all parties are willing to mediate. Individuals cannot feel coerced into doing so, because mediation, in our experience, simply does not work unless all parties are freely willing to try it.

The case of Chip Starnes is an enigma, but hopefully for all involved one that will be resolved very soon. It will stand as an example to all management throughout the globe of the importance of thorough communication and consultation during times of change, to prevent such extreme reactions occurring again.

Workers Hold US Factory Owner Hostage in China, ABC News

China: US Factory Boss Describes ‘Insane’ Dispute , Sky News

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