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French workers free hostages at Swedish firm

AFP · 22 Jan 2010, 06:21

Published: 22 Jan 2010 06:21 GMT+01:00

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The factory's director, human resources director and two other bosses at the Åkers plant in Fraisses, southwest of Lyon, were detained on Wednesday by workers angry

over the shutdown and loss of 120 jobs.

After spending the night in a factory meeting room, the managers tried on Thursday to persuade the angry workers to let them go.

"There is no other solution than to let us out. The company directors have stripped us of our mandate to negotiate," said factory director Laurent Dousselin.

A court in nearby Saint-Etienne ordered the immediate release of the four men but a justice official who turned up at the factory to meet with them was blocked from entering.

"No one has the right to treat us like trash and get rid of us with just 6,000 euros (8,500 dollars)," said one worker.

Union officials said they were demanding a lay-off package of 28,500 euros for each worker but the managers said the Swedish headquarters were refusing to negotiate while the bosses were being held.

French industry minister Christian Estrosi backed Åkers, saying "there can be no dialogue until the managers have recovered their full freedom".

Åkers announced three months ago that it planned to shut down the Fraisses plant in June, citing a collapse in customer orders.

Workers drank coffee and ate sandwiches outside the plant on Thursday and bitterly complained that they were not being compensated sufficiently for their loss of income.

"They shouldn't take us for naive fools," said Ludovic, a maintenance worker.

Story continues below…

French workers last year carried out a series of "bossnappings" to protest layoffs, but no such radical action has been taken over the past months.

President Nicolas Sarkozy in April spoke out against the detentions, saying there were illegal and vowed to take action.

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Your comments about this article

10:36 January 22, 2010 by dwb5555
I don't understand how this keeps happing in france. I don't understand how the managers are blocked from leaving. I say just open the door and say were leaving. If they say no tell them they are going to have to hit me and then they will be charged with assault.

It seems to me the police are weak beacuse they should be able to show up and tell everyone to leave or they will be arrested.
10:40 January 22, 2010 by Nemesis
Sounds like some managers who abused a workforce got a taste of there own medicine.

I think managers and owners should take heed that treating people as disposable can blow up in your face.
15:42 January 22, 2010 by tillerman
I wonder if the French workers were saying the same nasty things about greedy, heartless Swedish companies as Swedes working at Saab are saying about GM?
16:28 January 22, 2010 by Miguel526
It's clear that the French police/government is weak and afraid. The workers should be arrested and their severance packages cut 500 euros for every hour they (hold) kidnap managers against their will. The French have it all too easy in the first place. I will never forget the hot summer when thousands of vacationing French workers couldn't be bothered to return from their weeks long vacations when the hot summer weather killed 15,000 old people (their old parents). Many of these vacationers told the authorities to "keep them on ice" 'until we feel like coming home'.
20:30 January 22, 2010 by Dela
To Miguel526 :

"Many of these vacationers told the authorities to "keep them on ice" 'until we feel like coming home'. "

Where did you get that? I'm French and I've never heard of such a thing. Anyway, like people would call their local authorities to check that they gave ice to their parents...that's ridiculous!

The major problems were that old people didn't have air conditioners at their place and that these people don't feel the heat, so don't think to drink regularly not to dehydrate. No one thought the heat would have such dramatic consequences. Did you really think that French people were so self centered that they would stay on vacation knowing their parents would probably be dead by the time they come back? If so you're seriously prejudiced!

Workers take their managers hostage because they're desperate - there's only a few chance that they find a new job afterwards - and they know the public opinion support them. What's happening to them is unfair : the're losing their jobs when the company still makes profit.

And anyway, no one has interest to arrest and fine them. The managers don't want to affect the image of their firm more than it is already due to the lays off. The authorities don't want to intervene, first because of the public opinion, then because of the local elections in a few months.

This is really sad that these workers had to take so extreme actions to be heard.
04:22 January 24, 2010 by maarie
Dear Dela

I'm French too and I must admit that what Miguel526 told about the 'canicule' was unfortunately true. All the papers and many tv shows spoke about it at the time in France. The horrible selfish bastards were rare but they did exist. When contacted by the gendarmerie about a dead relative, one family told them to keep her/him in the refrigerated morgues (this is why he wrote about keeping them in ice) until they come back from holidays.

You are right about the air conditioners that were not mandatory in the hospices at this time. But what French people also realised then was that some forgot their old relatives and that the social link between generations had to be tied again.

Concerning the workers I see no excuse to kidnap people. You may be desesperate, it does not imply you will become a stupid delinquant. There are too many unemployed all over Europe and they do not act like this fortunately.

French governments are weak, they just are afraid of their own population, it's sad. And that's the image of the country that is affected.
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