IBM workers in China strike to protest transfer to Lenovo

The server factory has stopped production because of the protest

Not all are fans of Lenovo's recent plan to buy IBM's x86 server business. Since Monday, close to 1,000 workers at an IBM factory in China have been protesting the proposed acquisition, fearing they may lose their jobs if the deal goes through.

IBM's x86 server factory in Shenzhen, China stopped production after most of its workers went on strike. Photos and video of the demonstrations have go online, showing the employees holding up banners stating, "workers are not property, nor slaves, please don't sell us."

The factory has about 1,200 employees, and many of them have been at the facility for years, according to one worker, surnamed Zhang. Over 500 employees have worked there for over five years, and some have even been at the plant for over a decade, he said in a Thursday interview.

But the factory's output has been dropping: In January it phased out production of its higher-end servers. Employees suspect layoffs could come. This happened once before, almost 10 years ago, when Lenovo acquired IBM's ThinkPad PC business.

"When the PC business was bought, the other workers that were once at our side are all now pretty much gone," said Zhang, who has been at the factory for over 7 years. "Now there's no one."

If the deal is completed, the factory will become a subsidiary owned by Lenovo, IBM said on Thursday. The workers can choose to either remain employed at the factory earning a comparable wage, or decide to resign and take a severance package.

"While it is entirely an individual's choice, we are hoping employees will decide to remain with [the factory]," the company said in a statement.

The workers, however, continue to strike. They demand better terms and higher compensation, citing their long years at the facility. Some workers also want health checks, after pulling long hours at the facility.

When first starting at his job, Zhang often worked seven days a week, 15 hours each day, he said. But now he works eight to 10 hours each day, he added.

The employees also wish to know Lenovo's plans for the facility, but so far the Chinese PC maker has declined to comment.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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