French workers angry over plans to shut a U.S.-owned auto parts supplier were barricading two managers inside their plant on April 21, in the latest case of "boss-napping". Union activists at the Molex factory at Villemur-sur-Tarn in southern France decided to hold the two managers on April 20 after a meeting called to discuss some 300 layoffs ended in disagreement.
French labor department mediators were called in to try to end the standoff but managers said they refused to offer negotiations while being held captive.
Lawyers acting for Molex asked a court in nearby Toulouse to order the release of the two bosses: deputy manager Marcus Kerriou and human resources director Coline Colboc.
"There is no question of negotiating in this situation," said Kerriou.
French workers have taken several bosses captive over the past two months to demand better compensation packages for job losses, despite a threat by President Nicolas Sarkozy to put a stop to the practice.
Separately, a few hundred workers at a German-owned Continental plant went on a rampage after a court rejected their bid to halt the factory from shutting down with the loss of 1,100 jobs. The employees ransacked offices of the regional administration in Compiegne, northeast of Paris, and a judicial source said there was some damage, but no one was injured.
"This is the worst outcome, we are doomed," said Pierre Rubeck, a union activist at Continental, after the court handed down its ruling.
Sarkozy this month said blockading company bosses in their offices was illegal and that he would not allow "matters to go on like that." No charges have so far been brought against any of the employees who have detained their bosses. In each case, the managers were released unharmed and most of them agreed to new negotiations.
Union leaders at Molex, which produces electronic connectors, said they feared that police would be called in. "We were told that we were committing an offense but is it worse than putting 300 workers on the streets?" said union official Denis Parise. Molex announced last year plans to shut down the plant that was purchased five years ago.
Union leaders say management has moved production to plants in the Netherlands and that the shutdown was planned well before the economic crisis.
Business leaders have called on the president to take action to put an end to the practice but the leader of France's top union, the CGT, has said he condoned the actions as long as no harm came to the managers.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009