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Goodyear Factory Hostages Held Second Day by Union in France

Image: Goodyear Factory Hostages Held Second Day by Union in France Human Resources Chief, Bernard Glesser, left, and the firm's production manager Michel Dheilly.

By Michael Mullins   |   Tuesday, 07 Jan 2014 09:14 AM

Goodyear factory hostages are now entering their second day in captivity, after French Union members prevented two executives from leaving the Amiens-Nord plant in Northern France on Monday by barricading their office door with a massive farm tire.

The extreme measure is apparently an attempt by the local union to persuade the Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to reconsider its decision to close the facility, which employs more than 1,100 workers. The closure was announced in January 2013 after Goodyear corporate and the local union failed to reach an agreement following five years of negotiations.

The hostages, Michel Dheilly, director of production at Goodyear’s Amiens-Nord plant in northern France, and Bernard Glesser, head of the site’s human resources, will not be released until new talks are guaranteed the union says, Bloomberg News reported.

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"The management of Goodyear Dunlop Tires France won’t participate in any meeting with employees’ representatives as long as two of its managers are being held," Goodyear responded in an emailed statement to the Union's demands on Tuesday.

This isn't the first time hostages have been taken as part of an attempt by a French union to strong-arm negotiations.

In 2009, executives at French units of Caterpillar Inc., 3M Co. and Sony Corp. were held hostage by workers unhappy with job cuts and severance pay. The dispute was eventually resolved and the managers were released, according to The New York Times.

In February of 2013, American tycoon Maurice Taylor, chairman of U.S. tire giant Titan International which had considered bailing out the very same factory responsible for the hostage taking, wrote to a French official and explained his reason for backing away from the bailout writing that the factory workers are "lazy, overpaid and talk too much."

"I have visited the factory several times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three hours and work for three," Taylor wrote to French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, according to the French financial newspaper Les Echoes. "I told the French union workers this to their faces. They told me that's the French way!"

"Instead of thinking about their work, people think about their weekends, organizing, planning and engineering time off . . . If you say to a French person, 'would you like to be an entrepreneur?' all they do is run scared," Taylor continued.

On Monday night, Taylor weighed into the hostage situation in an interview with French radio station RTL, Bloomberg News noted.

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"That’s really stupid," Taylor said. "They’re taking hostages. In the U.S., that’s kidnapping. If they did that in the U.S., these people would go to jail. Why don’t they just go and rob a bunch of French banks and they could end up buying Goodyear? They’re crazy. I mean, come on! Get real. There’s no reason to do that. They’re not the big bosses. They can’t do anything. My God, they’re nuts."

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. employs about 3,000 people in factories across France. Titan International, for its part, has since expressed interest in purchasing at least one of Goodyear's French facilities, but only after the company has resolved its differences with the local union, The Wall Street Journal reported.

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