Handling "bossnappings" poses dilemma for Sarkozy

Thu Apr 9, 2009 12:42pm EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

PARIS (Reuters) - A spate of "bossnappings" by French workers has put President Nicolas Sarkozy in a tight spot, caught between the need to enforce the law and the risk of exacerbating unrest during the economic downturn.

Managers have been held hostage at factories for up to 24 hours by staff angry about layoff plans in four separate incidents since March 12. In a variant, a billionaire boss was blocked in his taxi by employees for an hour on March 31.

"What's this about holding people captive? We have the rule of law in this country. I will not let such things happen," Sarkozy told a group of entrepreneurs on Tuesday.

The same day, workers at a British-owned plant detained four managers, including three Britons, and held them overnight. As in the three previous bossnappings, police did not intervene. Staff let the managers go on Wednesday after promises of talks.

Apart from the humiliation of seeing his warning ignored, Sarkozy now faces a dilemma in how to handle similar incidents.

Employers' groups and politicians from his own center-right camp say such acts are unacceptable.

"However difficult the situations faced by employees, it is not acceptable to break the law," three bosses' groups said in a joint statement this week.

But labor unions and the left-wing opposition say workers facing layoffs in a context of recession and booming unemployment are desperate, so these acts are understandable.   Continued...

<p>France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy leave the plane after they arrived to Strasbourg, April 3, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>