strikes deal with workers

A worker phones from his nearempty office at Gaopeng in Shanghai on Monday. Gaopeng fired half its copywriters in Shanghai on Monday. Photo: Lu Yun/GT

Most laid-off employees from group buying website received a severance package of two months’ salary after holding talks with management teams from Beijing’s headquarters on Monday.

More than 60 laid-off employees from the Chinese joint venture entity belonging to Groupon gathered at the Shanghai branch on Monday morning to demand a better severance package after at least 200 were fired from the companies’ Shanghai, Wenzhou, Jinghua and Taizhou branches on Friday without proper severance deals.

At least 350 employees were laid off nationwide, said Zhao Zhanling, a lawyer representing the laid-off employees. Thirteen branch companies were closed and 18 branches let go of employees, he claimed.

“This will make Gaopeng look bad and they won’t be able to attract talent in the future,” he said.

The company made a statement late on Monday recognizing the contribution of laid-off employees, saying it had now decided to offer compensation higher than the labor law required.

“I feel much disrespected to be suddenly laid off without good reason,” a 30-year-old worker who refused to be named told the Global Times, before the deal was struck.

“I took a five-hour shuttle bus here to ask for a legitimate reason from the management team,” said the woman, who used to work in the city planning department at Gaopeng’s Wenzhou branch.

Some employees had been asked to sign a departure agreement with unclear severance under threat of being fired for a poor performance, according to the white-collar worker.

“I refused to sign a severance package at the beginning,” a 22-year-old graduate who worked at Shanghai branch for six months told the Global Times on Monday, “but the HR manager kind of threatened me into signing it saying that if I didn’t sign, they could write whatever reason.”

A 25-year-old employee in the editorial department of the Shanghai branch was offered 9,000 yuan ($1405.74).

“I’m not sure whether this layoff will leave a black mark on my resume when I look for my next job,” she told the Global Times on Monday on condition of anonymity. “The company agreed to offer a recommendation letter to whoever needs it, but I don’t know when I will receive that.”

Massive layoffs were a rarity, said Wu Dong, a Shanghai-based lawyer at M&A Law Firm.

“If a company fires more than 20 workers, it has to warn the employees 20 days ahead,” he said, “otherwise the employees have the right to resort to labor departments for arbitration.

“In this case, since the employees are mostly in their probationary period, two months’ severance is the best result.”

After two hours’ negotiations involving Lisa Yang, director of human resources, the company agreed to compensate the laid-off employees with two months’ salary and a signed paper agreement for most laid-off employees.

“Most people signed the agreement,” Shaun Gu, a former staff member in the partner management department, told the Global Times on Monday.

“Overall we feel satisfied with the company’s offer. This experience gave us a lesson that next time we find a job, we will have stronger sense of self protection and study the contract terms more carefully.”

It was a “very chaotic company,” said Xia Bobo, a former employee of the partner management department. “I was going to quit anyway.”

Global Times

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