Workers maintain threat to blow up bankrupt factory
French workers were barricaded inside their bankrupt car parts factory after threatening to blow the plant up.Chatellerault – French workers were Monday barricaded inside their bankrupt car parts factory after threatening to blow the plant up with gas canisters unless they receive a bigger pay-off.
"Are we capable of blowing up the factory?" asked CGT union official Guy Eyermann during a meeting of about a hundred workers who have been occupying the factory in Chatellerault for several weeks. "Yes, we are capable."
They insisted the string of gas canisters they have strung together are full -- despite claims from officials that they are bluffing with depressurised gas bottles -- and will be used to blow up the plant if necessary.
"Let them come and see," said Eyermann. "These are serious threats."
The small east-central town on Monday beefed up emergency services, bringing in extra firefighters to the local emergency centre, after the workers at the New Fabris plant set a 31 July deadline for their demands to be met.
The 366 workers said Sunday they would carry out their threat unless carmakers Renault and PSA-Peugeot -- who accounted for 90 percent of business -- pay them EUR 30,000 (USD 42,000) each when they lose their jobs.
The threat comes after a recent wave of "bossnappings" across France earlier this year in which managers have been held hostage by workers over factory closures.
The Chatellerault factory houses car parts worth an estimated two million euros, as well as a new Renault machine believed to be worth a further two million, Eyermann said.
The workers have blockaded the entrance to try to stop any attempt to take the equipment out.
The New Fabris workers, whose employer was declared bankrupt on June 16, claim that Renault and Peugeot paid around EUR 30,000 each to 200 workers laid off from another supplier, the aluminium specialist Rencast.
But both Renault and Peugeot said Monday it was not their responsibility to pay out compensation to the New Fabris workers.
PSA Peugeot-Citroen does "not have to take the place of the state or of share-holders," a spokesman said.
A Renault spokesman also said that the carmaker, like Peugeot, had already helped Fabris financially but should not be expected to pay compensation to the firms' workers.
Eyermann said two coachloads of workers visited Peugeot headquarters last week and a similar delegation would go Thursday to visit Renault bosses and the employment ministry to try to negotiate a settlement.
They hope to force the state to put pressure on the carmakers, which both received public funds to help them through the global downturn.
New Fabris company director Pierre Reau said that currently the firm would only able to pay between EUR 10,000 and 15,000 in redundancy to workers with 20 or more years experience, and some junior workes would get just EUR 3,000.
"I understand their distress," he said, adding that a dramatic and sudden fall in orders had led to the company's downfall.
Founded in 1947 by two brothers, Eugene and Quentin Fabris, New Fabris started out making sewing machine parts, before branching out into the auto sector, employing up to 800 workers in the 1990s.
AFP / Expatica