Bacon, the British head of BRS, a car parts company based near Besançon in France, was held captive by his French workforce for 48 hours when they realised he was planning to close down their factory. He was then frogmarched down to the local courtroom and forced to file for bankruptcy.
France is not exactly renowned for its progressive attitude to labour relations. But to be fair, this incident happened when they came in one Saturday morning to discover Bacon loading up seven vans full of kit from the factory, and realised he was about to decamp to Slovakia without telling them. Not surprisingly, they were a bit miffed – and decided to lock him up inside the factory gates until they could get him into a courtroom (the liquidation process at least gives them a good chance of getting their wages, although he claims he would have paid them anyway).
Bacon told Le Parisien newspaper that he didn’t have much choice, because the factory had run out of money. Wages in France are five times higher than they are in Slovakia, and the labour laws are a lot less stringent – so it’s no wonder he thinks that: ‘everything there is more favourable’.
However, that won’t be much consolation to any British bosses currently working in France. After all, Bacon is the second to be kidnapped by his workforce so far this year – Prakash Patel, director of a Unilever ice-cream factory, suffered a similar fate last month after announcing 200 job cuts. And the campaign against la delocalisation (shifting jobs outside France) seems to be gathering pace. President Sarkozy seems to be on a personal mission to keep French jobs French, regardless of how illegal it might be.
What’s more, when workers with a grievance have kidnapped bosses in the past, or burnt down competitors’ stores, or blockaded motorways to prevent lorries passing through, they tend to be met with nothing more than a Gallic shrug from the authorities.
So if you’re thinking of following Bacon’s example, you might want to come up with a slightly better escape plan...