Sacked Factory Workers Hold French Sony Boss Overnight

Workers are upset over Sony France's closure of the Pontonx-sur-l'Adour site, which has specialized in manufacturing video tapes since 1984.

Workers held Serge Foucher, the head of Sony France hostage overnight before freeing him on March 13 to take part in talks to persuade the Japanese giant to increase their redundancy package.

"I am happy to be free and to see the light of day again," Serge Foucher said as he emerged from the Sony plant at Pontonx-sur-l'Adour in southwest France with a fellow hostage, his head of human resources. The pair climbed into a mini-bus along with union officials and headed to a meeting with the regional state representative and union leaders in the nearby town of Dax to revive negotiations on the redundancy package, officials said.

Foucher was held overnight in a meeting room, a union official said, adding that some police officers were present outside the site but had decided not to intervene in order to avoid inflaming the situation.

Sony France announced in December the closure of the Pontonx-sur-l'Adour site, which has specialized in manufacturing video tapes since 1984.

Foucher had gone to the factory on March 12 to meet its 311 workers one last time before its closure on April 17. But the workers, who say their pay-off is less generous than that offered at other French Sony plants that have closed, decided to launch a strike, then barricaded the entry to the site with tree trunks and stopped him leaving. Sony press spokeswoman Delphine Viers said the manager had been in contact with the local state security chief throughout his ordeal and had opted for dialogue rather than asking for police to intervene.

"It's true that this might seem suprising abroad, but it's less surprising in France, where we're more used to this kind of situation," she said, adding that it was unlikely that the firm would make a criminal complaint. Disgruntled workers imprisoning their bosses has happened several times in France in recent years.

The English boss of a car parts plant in the east of the country was last year held for two days in his office by his workforce.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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