Three British managers held in French 'bossnapping'

8th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A company says three British executives and a French manager have been held hostage in an adhesives factory by their workers a day after Sarkozy vows to put an end to the latest bossnapping trend.

LYON – Workers at a British-owned adhesives factory in France held three British executives and a local manager captive on Wednesday over plans to close the site down, the company said.

In the latest of a string of so-called "bossnappings", staff at the plant in Bellegarde sur Valserine, southeast France, run by the French branch of British industrial adhesives manufacturer Scapa, took their bosses hostage late Tuesday, detaining them overnight, police said.

"We are aware that there were in France a number of circumstances in which people have been held hostage," the group, headquartered in the northwestern English city of Manchester, told AFP.

It said three British executives were detained, the director of Scapa's European operations, the personnel manager and the finance director of Scapa France, along with the general manager of Scapa France, a French national.

Workers detained their bosses after a breakdown in negotiations over the settlement deal for some 60 staff due to be laid off following the closure of the plant, which produces specialist adhesives for the car industry.

"They are free to come and go within the site, but not to leave it," a union official told AFP.

Scapa, which announced in February it would close its plant in Bellegarde sur Valserine, said it was forced to cut back after the market for car industry adhesives collapsed by 50 percent in 2008.

President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed on Tuesday to put an end to the practice of "bossnapping," after a string of cases in which workers took their managers captive to demand negotiations over layoffs.

"What is this business of sequestering people? We have the rule of law, and I will not let matters go on like that," Sarkozy said in a speech in Venelles near the southern city of Aix-en-Provence.

"We can understand that people are angry, but this anger will subside with answers and results, not by aggravating matters with actions that are contrary to the law," he said.

While some managers have behaved badly toward their employees, "the vast majority of business owners are hurting from the economic crisis and are behaving remarkably well," Sarkozy added.

Opposition politician Segolene Royal at the weekend described such actions as illegal but added that "workers must try to break through the wall of absolute injustice" during the economic crisis.

"There is this prevailing view that workers must endure, disappear without saying a word, be laid off without making any noise or trouble," said Royal, Sarkozy's Socialist rival in the 2007 elections, in a newspaper interview.

A CSA poll published Tuesday showed half of the French believe such radical methods are unacceptable, but that 45 percent say they are acceptable.

A separate Ifop survey found 63 percent "understood but did not approve" of "bossnappings" with 30 percent saying they approved the tactic.

Workers at a Caterpillar plant last week released four managers who were held for 24 hours until the US-owned company agreed to reopen talks on compensation for hundreds of laid-off staff.

In March, a manager was held at a factory run by US conglomerate 3M and the boss of Sony France was detained overnight by workers outraged at job losses sparked by the global downturn.

AFP / Expatica

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