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Union fights Wal-Mart on executive restructuring

US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc halted a plan to restructure its mid-level executives in China, a move that some thought was an attempt to make them quit, after local trade unions stepped in, a labor official said yesterday.

"Three mid-level executives came to my office this morning and told me the plan was shelved and they had resumed their work," said Yang Fengzhi, director of the legal department of the Federation of Trade Unions in Changchun in Jilin Province.

Mou Mingming, a Wal-Mart public relations manager, said yesterday that the company was communicating with the local trade unions and had further explained the restructuring plan to company employees.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, on April 10 offered three options to managers and people working directly under them, according to workers. These included transfers to outlets in other cities, demotions or severance.

"The company actually wants us to leave," said Yang Zhongtian. who works in a Wal-Mart store in Jilin and was among those targeted, "because few would find the first two options unacceptable."

He said the plan might have put at least 2,100 mid-level executives like himself out of work.

Mou declined to say how many employees were affected.

"Wal-Mart is a company that is still growing, and we expect experienced executives to work in new stores to guarantee quality service," she said, when asked whether the decision had any connection with the global downturn.

Yang, 35 and a father of a 9-year-old boy, said he was shocked by the move. He has worked at Wal-Mart for five years, and his family depends greatly on his monthly salary of 2,000 yuan (US$293).

"We invited the general managers of four chain stores in the city to our office immediately and told them we expect them to negotiate with the executives on equal terms," said the union's Yang Fengzhi. "We don't think it's right for the company to announce such a decision without consulting employees."

Wal-Mart runs 121 super-centers, three Sam's Club outlets, two Neighborhood Markets and 101 Trust-Mart chain stores in China, employing more than 70,000 people.


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