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Nokia employees protest layoffs

2014-08-04 09:20 Global Times Web Editor: Wang Fan

Hundreds of staff members from a research center in Microsoft Corp's Nokia phone business division rallied over the weekend at the firm's Beijing branch, claiming that the parent company failed to follow proper procedure and provide appropriate compensation to employees during a massive layoff.

Over 90 percent of around 5,000 employees of Nokia's research center and factories for handset hardware will be laid off, a staff member of the company was quoted by the Beijing News newspaper as saying Saturday.

The layoff of Nokia employees are part of a larger retrenchment plan by Microsoft, which bought the Finnish company's devices and services unit for $7.2 billion on April 25.

On July 17, Microsoft said in a statement that it would begin to reduce the size of its overall workforce by up to 18,000 jobs in the next year. The the vast majority of employees whose jobs will be eliminated will be notified over the next six months, the company said.

Hundreds of Nokia employees gathered on Thursday and Friday to protest against a compensation plan which they claimed was "inappropriate," China National Radio (CNR) reported on Sunday.

Microsoft on Thursday e-mailed a compensation plan to Nokia employees, who were required to sign the plan within two weeks, CNR said.

According to the plan, Microsoft now compensates laid-off employees with two months' salary plus the monthly salary multiplied by the number of years the employee had served at the firm, news portal caixin.com reported on Friday.

This plan will leave laid-off workers with much less cash compared with another compensation package which is rumored that it will be used by Microsoft.

In addition, anyone who refuses to sign the plan as required will be fired, CNR said, quoting unnamed Nokia employees.

When Microsoft purchased Nokia, the latter's former head, Stephen Elop, had promised that the company would not lay off any workers within a year's period, several Nokia staff members told CNR.

To show their discontent, some employees held slogans saying "Protesting hostile acquisition and forcible layoffs by Microsoft" and "We want jobs" at the gate of the Nokia facility in Beijing's Yizhuang industrial park, according to CNR.

Both Nokia and Microsoft China declined to comment when reached by the Global Times on Sunday.

"If the staff members could provide evidence showing that Nokia had guaranteed no layoffs within one year or had promised a compensation plan, they may possibly win a lawsuit," Chen Xinjun, a lawyer at Chang An (Shanghai) Law Firm, told the Global Times Sunday.

Concerning the procedure of the layoffs by Microsoft, Chen said normally an employer needs to submit documents including the compensation plan to a labor union or take advice from all the employees 30 days in advance.

"If the reports saying that employees were forced to sign an agreement were true, Microsoft might be guilty of violating China's labor law," Chen noted.

A former mid-level manager who resigned from Nokia around four months ago and wished to remain anonymous, told the Global Times on Sunday, that "layoffs by Nokia are just a matter of time."

"I didn't foresee clear prospects for Nokia, and I couldn't exactly make out what Microsoft plans to do after it purchased Nokia's devices and services unit," he said.

Nokia, once the top choice for cellphones in China, had been suffering a dramatic slide in sales before the Microsoft buyout. The company had a 2.89 percent share in China's mobile phone market at the end of 2013, ranking No.10 among all phone brands, according to Analysys International.

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