'Boss-napping' returns in France as unionists lock up Goodyear executives

Tue Jan 7, 2014 2:27pm EST
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By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - French trade unionists held two executives overnight on Tuesday at the country's Goodyear tyre plant - a flashpoint for France's troubled industrial relations - to demand higher pay-outs for more than a thousand planned layoffs.

Workers at the idled factory in the northern city of Amiens have been trying to negotiate redundancy terms with management for nearly a year, after Texan tyre tycoon Maurice Taylor withdrew a potential rescue bid on the grounds that French workers were lazy - triggering a political storm.

After a court rejected their most recent appeal against the plant's closure, members of the hard-left CGT union locked up production and human resources directors Michel Dheilly and Bernard Glesser on Monday.

France 2 TV showed the Goodyear executives seated at a table staring straight ahead as workers shouted in their ears. One director had a bed pan thrust in his face. The unionists said the two men were being amply supplied with food and water.

The so-called "boss-napping" is the first since a spate of them in 2009 prompted conservative ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy to give police powers to intervene by force if necessary.

Tough labor tactics have declined under Socialist President Francois Hollande. But the situation in the factory, where the hardline CGT has majority staff backing, creates a dilemma for the left-wing government wary of cracking down too hard on protests by their blue-collar voters.

"We're ready to go all the way," said CGT union delegate Franck Jurek. "It can last for a few more hours, it can last for a few days or a few weeks. As long as our demands are not met, these two people stay with us."


An employee of U.S. tyre-maker Goodyear stands in front of burning tires at the entrance of the plant in Amiens, northern France, to protest job cuts and the project to close the French plant in Amiens in this November 18, 2013 file picture. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Files