Factory Shut Down in France After Workers Clash with Manager

Molex cited secruity reasons for the closure of their factory in Villemur-sur-Tarn, near the southern city of Toulouse.

Angry French workers besieged a car parts factory on August 6 after the American owners accused a group of employees of assaulting a manager and shut down the plant.

Executives at Molex cited security reasons for the closure of their factory in Villemur-sur-Tarn, near the southern city of Toulouse, and lodged a police complaint against four workers over the incident.

Molex chief executive Martin Slark also accused French police of failing to respond to calls for assistance when manager Eric Doesburg and two security guards were allegedly attacked late on August 4.

About 40 workers allegedly kicked and punched Doesburg following a meeting of the factory's works council to discuss layoffs, but a union official said the manager "did not receive any blows, just eggs".

Doesburg is based in America and was in France for talks on the fate of the 283 workers when the plant shuts down for good in October and production is relocated to the United States.

"We will not compromise on the safety and well-being of our employees," Slark said from Molex headquarters in Lisle, Illinois. "We are very concerned not only by the violent actions of some employees at this site but by the complete lack of support from law enforcement authorities when people were being physically attacked. This is not acceptable and we are prepared to take whatever action we think is necessary to ensure both the safety of our employees and the security of our plant."

About 50 workers were massed outside the factory on August 6 and union official Denis Parise said they had asked labor officials to intervene. "If they want to resolve this with force, then that's what will happen," warned Parise. "This is not a factory closure for economic reasons. It is a purely strategic move," said union official Thierry Bonhoure.

Four workers appeared in court on August 6 to hear a complaint from Molex and a judge was due to render a decision on August 11.

The Molex workers have been on strike since July 7 to protest the plan to shut down their factory, and in April they barricaded two managers in their offices for a day.

French Industry Minister Christian Estrosi said that "these acts of violence do a disservice to the workers' cause and make negotiations even more difficult".

Doesburg, who currently uses a walking stick after a recent knee operation, went to see a doctor after the incident who prescribed a seven-day medical leave, according to Molex. "We were attacked as we were leaving the plant late in the day," Doesburg said. "We are outraged by both the behavior of the individuals involved in the violent actions and by the lack of response by the police who we called for help."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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