The US$302 million acquisition of CP Lotus stores in China by Chinese supermarket operator Wumart last week has got investors very excited. Employees at the Lotus outlets in Beijing were less impressed however and staged a series of strikes over the weekend in a bid to protect their jobs.
The Beijing News reported on 23 October that staff at eight Lotus stores had taken pre-emptive action after word of the takeover spread, stopping work on Friday 18 October to demand assurances that their pay and conditions would not be adversely affected by the takeover.
CP Lotus stated that management would not take any undue action after the acquisition, but the workers were not convinced and staged another two-day strike on Sunday and Monday.
The Thai-owned, Hong Kong-listed company confirmed the “temporary closure” of its Beijing stores in a public announcement on Tuesday, and said that discussions with employee representatives were pending.
CP Lotus follows British-owned Tesco in off-loading its loss-making mainland retail business to Chinese-owned interests this year. After nine years in China, Tesco decided in August to fold its unprofitable operation into state-run China Resources Enterprise Ltd and become a minority partner.
Prior to its sale to China Resources, workers at several failing Tesco stores in China had gone on strike to demand proper redundancy payments. At the Jinhua store in Zhejiang, for example, workers barricaded themselves inside until management agreed to discuss their list of demands.
There have been several other strikes in the last few years related to retail acquisitions and mergers in China. When American retail giant Walmart bought into Taiwan-owned Trust-Mart in 2007, for example, employees at several Trust-Mart stores in Fujian went on strike in protest at new management plans. And in 2010, Trust-Mart workers in Chengdu staged a go-slow, protesting against unfair management and potential layoffs.