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French Workers Hold Managers at Caterpillar Plant

Tuesday, 31 Mar 2009 12:56 PM

GRENOBLE, France -- French workers on Tuesday detained five managers at a plant run by US firm Caterpillar to protest plans to slash hundreds of jobs, in the latest of a string of "bossnapping" cases.

Employees barricaded their bosses in a management office at around 10:30 am (0830 GMT) to demand new negotiations on laying off 733 workers at the factory in the southern city of Grenoble.

"We are holding them in the director's office," union official Benoit Nicolas told AFP. "They are a little stunned."

Factory director Nicolas Polutnick was being held along with the human resources director, the head of personnel and two managers, but Nicolas said they would not be detained for long.

"We do plan to let them go," he said, adding that he believed a deal was within reach.

It was the third time in March that executives had been held by French workers outraged at job losses sparked by the global economic crisis.

A manager of a factory run by US pharmaceutical giant 3M was held for more than 24 hours last week and the boss of Sony France was detained overnight on March 12 by workers seeking better redundancy packages.

Police did not intervene to free the managers who were released unharmed and no charges have been laid against the workers.

Caterpillar workers were on strike for a second day on Tuesday at two plants that produce construction equipment engines in the Grenoble region. Some 2,500 people are employed at the factories.

The workers were demanding a minimum of 30,000 euros (39,000 dollars) in severance pay, said Nicolas.

In the central French town of Chatellerault, thousands of protesters tried to march to an exhibition centre where President Nicolas Sarkozy was to chair a round table on his government's response to the economic crisis.

Police fired tear gas after the protesters, prevented from reaching the venue, pelted them with eggs.

France has also seen strikes and protests over big bonuses paid to managers, as the crisis sent the number of French jobless shooting up monthly to reach 2.4 million.

The government this week issued a decree banning stock options and curbing executive bonuses at companies that take state aid, after a public outcry over payoffs to bosses.

Sarkozy has sought to address labour resentment after more than a million workers took to the streets for the second time this year to contest his policies, with unions calling for major Labour Day protests on May 1.

The government has not spoken out strongly against "bossnapping", but families minister Nadine Morano has said such radical tactics were not the answer to job losses.

"I think that it's not at all the proper solution," Morano said, but added: "I can understand that there are moments of despair."

Copyright © 2009 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved.

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GRENOBLE, France -- French workers on Tuesday detained five managers at a plant run by US firm Caterpillar to protest plans to slash hundreds of jobs, in the latest of a string of "bossnapping" cases.Employees barricaded their bosses in a management office at around 10:30...
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2009-56-31
Tuesday, 31 Mar 2009 12:56 PM
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