ChinaHR.com, a Chinese jobs site that was bought by Monster.com in 2008, had about as terrible a night as a company can have and still be in one piece the next morning. On Tuesday, the site laid off 54 percent of its Beijing staff, offering them a pretty generous severance package. That might seem like a perfect solution to an unfortunate problem, but it wasn’t. Seeing the laid-off workers leaving happily with their money, the workers who didn’t get laid off protested. From there, things went downhill.
The situation is actually a bit more complex than that. ChinaHR is in dire financial straits, and the word is that a buyout is coming very soon. But ChinaHR CEO Luo Bingquan, citing a confidentiality agreement, has refused to tell employees anything about who is buying the company or what might happen to them after that. Everyone at the company started to get nervous about their futures, and seeing the people laid off so well compensated was apparently the last straw. “We watched the laid off people happily leaving with their severance, but what about us?” one ChinaHR employee said to Sina Tech. “All they have told us is: if you haven’t been laid off, keep working.”
Needless to say, that attitude didn’t satisfy everyone, and at around 2 in the afternoon, disgruntled employees began gathering on the 13th floor of their building looking to get some explanation from Luo Bingquan and the management staff Monster.com had sent to implement the layoffs. Management hid in their offices, physically unable to access the corridor, and the local police showed up to maintain order. Early in the evening, when Luo finally showed his face, it was with two burly bodyguards, prompting further disdain from the already-angry crowd.
Over the course of the night, the employees chose representatives and they engaged in negotiations first with Luo Bingquan, who they demanded reveal the new parent company and the plans for the buyout. Luo refused, citing an NDA and the fact that the deal wasn’t totally finalized, but said that a buyout deal had been signed with someone the previous Saturday night. He also said the deal had to be finalized by the 31st and that Monster.com would retain a small percentage of ChinaHR stock following the buyout.
Needless to say, it wasn’t any consolation to the employees to learn that if the deal — which they knew none of the details of — fell through they could be jobless and potentially uncompensated by the end of the week. They demanded that Luo call Monster.com CEO Sal Iannuzzi, which he did. With Luo acting as translator, Iannuzzi spoke with the employees and promised that if they were laid off anytime in 2013 by the new owners, they would get the same compensation package that had been offered earlier that day to the employees that had been laid off. He also promised to give everyone a months’ salary as a bonus.
But the employees remained unsatisfied, demanding that they immediately be given the same amount of money that had just been issued to the laid-off workers. They also demanded the right to decide for themselves whether to continue with the buyout plans. Needless to say, management could not agree to this, and the negotiations reached an impasse. Finally, around 10:30 P.M. the employees agreed that if they were given the same compensation sum as the laid-off workers now, they would not quit their jobs in 2013. Iannuzzi agreed to consider this and said he would respond within 24 hours. By 11 P.M., people were finally leaving the office and heading home.
So it seems ChinaHR.com has kept its remaining employees onboard and preserved hopes of an acquisition for now. But will this incident scare off the mystery company planning to buy ChinaHR from Monster.com? Only time will tell. The buyout agreement deadline is fast approaching, and if things don’t go their way, employees could be occupying the office building again in just a day or two.
(via Sina Tech)
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