French managers held captive at paper mill

11th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

Workers angry about the closure of a US paper mill, barricaded the two bosses in their offices.

Marseille – Two French managers of a US-owned paper mill were being held captive Wednesday by workers angry over the closure of one of Europe's oldest factories, a union official said.

Workers at the Malaucene paper mill, which began producing in 1545 in the southern French region of Provence, barricaded the two bosses in their offices after talks broke down, said George Pouilly, head of the works council.

"Last night at around 11 o'clock, we submitted our final proposals and they rejected them. So we said 'you're not leaving'," Pouilly said.

The mill's director Jean-Marc Pavero and Jean-Yves Klein, the financial director for Europe for the US group Schweitzer-Mauduit, which has owned the plant since 1922, were being held captive.

"He's the number two for Europe. We don't want him to leave, because he can give us some answers," said Pouilly.

France has seen a wave of "boss-nappings" by workers angry over job losses during the global downturn, despite warnings from President Nicolas Sarkozy that such radical labour tactics are illegal.

No employee has yet been charged for holding their boss hostage in any of the incidents, and many politicians have expressed sympathy for workers distressed over factory closures.

An official from Schweitzer-Mauduit declined to comment on the situation at the paper mill, which produces cigarette filters in the village of Malaucene, in France's sun-drenched Vaucluse region.

Schweitzer-Mauduit announced in April that the paper mill would shut down for good in September, slashing 210 jobs and ending more than 400 years of history.

"The factory is closed off. There is a roadblock made from crates in front of the administrative offices where negotiations are taking place," said Pouilly.

Talks were to resume early Wednesday, said union official Jean-Marc Moulin, adding that there had been no significant progress during negotiations on Tuesday.

Workers want to save the paper mill and argue its production is viable despite the global downturn.

Many accuse the US company of plotting to shut down Malaucene well before the economic crisis hit and say not enough was done to save the plant.

AFP / Expatica

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