According to the Chinese zodiac, 2012 will be the year of the dragon and though the new year has only just begun, it has already come in roaring, putting the mayor of Wuhan, China to the test. According to, he spent hours atop the roof of a Foxconn company building negotiating with desperate protesters to back away from the ledge.

Foxconn is a major supplier to such technology giants as Microsoft and Apple, and is known for making the video gaming system Xbox. A disagreement over worker compensation caused a couple hundred employees to climb one of the company’s six-story buildings and threaten mass suicide.

Workers were under the impression that if they were to quit instead of being moved to a different campus, they would be paid a month’s worth of compensation for every year they had worked at the company. Foxconn did not hold up to its end of the bargain, sparking the rooftop protest. In its defense, Foxconn said in a statement that it did not agree to any severance with all of its employees.

An anonymous worker told New York Times correspondent, David Barboza, that working conditions at the campus the employees were being transferred to were much harsher than current conditions. In response, Foxconn released a statement saying that the dispute was over the transfer and staffing policies, not working conditions.

This is not the first time suicide has been used to bring attention to Foxconn employee grievances. A suicide incident in 2010 caused Foxconn to raise its employees pay and bring in various emotional health services, such as psychiatrists. According to Geoffrey Crotell, who spoke with the Bloomberg news network, threatening suicide is a common tactic used by local workers to draw attention to their difficulties. Some companies have even resorted to placing safety nets around their buildings to deter the threat of suicide.

No suicides took place by the end of the protest, but 45 workers have resigned; the rest of the protesters returned to work. It is unknown whether those 45 that resigned were compensated. One individual did step forward and said that he was able to get 30,000 yuan in compensation (about $4,500).

Wang, an engineer at Foxconn, made it clear that he only received this amount after invoking the help of his supervisor. The exact positions of the other protesters are unknown, but the level of their position may have an effect on any compensation they may receive. Length of employment may also play a role; it is unknown how long Wang had been at the company before he resigned.