Protests by hundreds of workers from a Wuxi department store over feared job losses entered their fourth day yesterday as local authorities called for calm. Officials from the local government and the company confirmed that workers from the Wuxi Commercial Mansion, the city's biggest department store and a Shanghai-listed company, had staged sit-ins since Tuesday. A senior company official surnamed Zhang said the protest was mainly due to worker dissatisfaction with a government-led acquisition of the state-owned company in December by Shanghai's Junyao Group. 'A large number of people are still protesting in front of our department store despite the city government's intervention and our repeated promises that we will not lay off any workers,' Mr Zhang said. He said a vice-mayor and many senior government officials had visited the scene and the protests had been quiet and peaceful. A report circulated in club. cat898.com, one of the mainland's most popular internet chat rooms, claimed more than 1,000 company staff were involved in the protests over fears they would be laid off. Mr Zhang denied the claims, adding that only 200 to 300 company staff, mostly shop assistants, had taken part in the demonstrations. The company has more than 2,000 employees. An official from the city's propaganda department accused the protesters of deliberately making trouble. 'The government has tried its best to protect workers' interests in the state-owned enterprise reform. The compensation for department store staff who want to quit is very high compared with other similar cases in the city as well as the province,' he said. He admitted the government and company officials were partly responsible for the demonstrations for failing to hold effective talks with the workers. 'But we have already stopped the ownership reform in view of the situation. The fact that they still refuse to call off the protests shows they must have been spurred on someone,' he added, without giving further details. Highlighting the authorities' fear that the demonstrations could escalate, mainland media, including Xinhua, were not allowed to cover the protest and discussions in local internet chat rooms were banned. The Wuxi Daily, a local government mouthpiece, has printed two strongly worded editorials against the protest in the past two days. Both officials denied the Junyao Group was involved in the dispute.