Human resources director Alain Thomas and factory manager Olivier Dalicieux have been detained in an altercation over redundancy pay by angry employees at the Superior Essex plant in Macon. The plant, which makes cables and wires, is scheduled to close after a 30% drop in sales.
The pair have been held since Wednesday, reportedly sleeping on their office floors, as staff ‘negotiate’ with LS Cable, the factory’s South Korean parent company, for a tripling of the 30,000 Euro redundancy pay they are currently being offered.
Such tactics make even Bob Crow and his strike-happy chums at the RMT look reasonable by comparison, although if previous cases are anything to go by, it’s probably all very civilised. This being France, there are of course unwritten rules about the behaviour expected from both sides in a bossnapping dispute, and woe betide those who cross the line.
Bossnapping was particularly rife during the height of the economic crisis last year, when hardly a month went by without another incident of executives being detained against their will. But after president Sarkozy hinted that the authorities might not continue to turn a blind eye if things carried on that way, the number of incidents declined rapidly.
But France is a nation with a proud – not to say idiosyncratic - tradition of direct action. Think of all those lorry drivers blocking motorways and fishermen blockading ports. It was only a matter of time before the bossnappers were back at it - a report last year in the French magazine le Parisien hinted that whatever the president may think, the practice has a surprisingly high degree of public support, with nearly half in favour of it as a negotiating technique.
The 81 staff employed at the factory are adamant that they should each receive 120,000 Euros – a cool £105,000 at current exchange rates – in the event of closure. What’s more, they say that if their demands are not met, as well as holding Messrs Thomas and Dalicieux against their will, they will begin chucking valuable factory equipment into the nearby river Saone. Sacre Bleu!
Hardly surprising that such threats have not gone down well with the South Korean owners, who are probably more used to doling out rather than receiving any direct action which may be required.
So, who is going to win? The normal progress of these things is for the protestors to lose interest after a few days and let the hostages go, having settled for a much reduced claim – but with honour satisified.
However, in this case we’re not so sure. Showing what could be costly inexperience in Gallic industrial relations, owner LS Cable has had the nerve to file a formal legal complaint against the protestors. That could really get their gander up…
In today's bulletin:
Goldman Sachs fraud case puts whole industry on trial
Airlines under a cloud, as eruptions continue
City fat cats take home a third of UK's wage bill
Public sector cost cutting calls for surgeons not butchers
Boss-napping back on the menu in France