US boss held in China says deal made

Chip Starnes (photo courtesy: The Guardian)

A U.S. company boss held hostage by his Chinese workers for nearly a week says an agreement has been reached to set him free and he expects to leave his Beijing plant today.

Chip Starnes tells The Associated Press a deal has been reached to pay the dozens of workers who had demanded generous severance packages -- even though they weren't being laid off.

Some workers had said that when they saw equipment being packed up and itemized for shipping to India last week they feared the whole medical supply plant was moving. Some said they were owed unpaid salary.

Starnes, a co-owner of Florida-based Specialty Medical Supplies, says he was forced to give in to their demands.

He says he plans to get back to business and rehire some of the workers who had been holding him.

Starnes previously said the company had been winding down its plastics division, with plans to move it to Mumbai. He arrived in Beijing last week to lay off the last 30 people. Workers in other divisions started demanding similar severance packages on Friday, and he was locked in hours of negotiations with local officials representing the workers.

(Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)