Monday, July 10, 2006

You've got to feel sorry for them...

Our poor Chinese staff... I feel for them. I'm not sure I could work in the conditions that they do, and for the time being my boss and I are powerless to change things.

Kevin is one of our most talented young designers/draftsman. If I need something to be done quickly and properly, I know to give it to Kevin. He is very smart, a quick thinker, and very creative. At the same time he is very quiet and shy, and will often burst into laughter when he tries to speak English to cover his embarrasment. I like Kevin. (Don't worry, Franklin, I still like you more...)

Last week Kevin didn't show up to work for three days in a row. Considering that Kevin lives at the factory (in horrible little rooms) like the rest of the workers, it was quite surprising that Kevin had gone anywhere. When he showed up three days later, he told me that a female friend of his has travelled a long way to see him and that he had thought it would be ok if he took some days off because we aren't busy. I lectured Kevin and told him that he is smarter than that... he knows that he must ask permission just to leave and that even in a Western company his behaviour could result in termination. Kevin then confided to me that he knew he should ask but he was afraid the answer would be, "No", so he decided to go anyway.

Louis, the Chinese president had decided to fire him after the first day of absence... but Max and I both need Kevin. We are about to send him to France for a month to learn a new production technology for trailers, and we both feel he is the only one that can do it. I went to the chinese management and explained out position and that we need to keep Kevin. We felt willing to forgive him this transgression if he promised to ask next time.

Anyway, Louis agreed to keep Kevin... but he fined him one month's salary ($180), gave him a permanent pay cut (now he makes $160 per month), locked his computer until futher notice (so he can't actually do any work for me now anyway), and forced him to sign a contract saying he will not leave the company for another FIVE years!

I think the only reason Kevin is not in tears now is because he knows we are sending him to the French Alps for one month. I'd be pretty happy about that too, but it looks like I am only going to get to go for one week.

Overall, I think things will get a lot better for our office staff once our new office building is complete. There are two floors of bedrooms (4 people per room... about 15' x 20', and at least now they will have showers (currently my staff shower once each week at their old university where they still have friends). I have to talk to Louis seriously about getting some clothes washing machines, a big television, and DVD player. They already have a ping pong table (stereotypical, I know). Perhaps we can even set up a small shop for them to buy things in, food, etc.

Alright, well again... I know... not much comedy in this post, but I just wanted to relay some of the stuff I have to deal with.