French Workers Hold Managers Captive

Shoemakers burst into meeting and detain executives for four hours.

Shoe factory workers in southern France took four senior managers captive on May 30 after the firm announced plans to relocate its production to Tunisia. Managers of Jallatte, Europe's leading manufacturer of safety shoes, told workers early May 30 they intended to cut 285 out of 336 jobs across its four French production sites. Furious at the news, union leaders and workers burst into a meeting in the southern town of Saint Hippolyte du Fort, attended by four top executives, including Giovanni Falco, managing director of the company's Italian owner JAL.

The managers were held captive for several hours, until Falco agreed to push back by three weeks a June 6 meeting intended to kickstart the restructuring plan.

Falco was to take part in a round table meeting later with workers and local officials to consider ways of keeping manufacturing jobs in the Gard region, which has been hit by a string of high-profile relocations in recent months, including the stocking maker Well.

The protesting workers had called on President Nicolas Sarkozy to fulfil a campaign pledge to stop French manufacturing from shifting abroad.

Founded in 1947 as a rubber boot manufacturer, Jallatte now produces 1.2 million pairs of safety shoes a year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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