Workplace rights: Captives of industry

France has witnessed an extraordinary wave of 'bossnappings' - workers taking company executives hostage - this year. Dating back to the rebellious days of 1968, the practice is proliferating as more French workers face business closures and redundancy. Sony France's CEO and HR director were held overnight by staff, who barricaded their factory entrance with tree trunks. They were freed only after agreeing to renegotiate redundancy pay. President Sarkozy has publicly condemned bossnapping, yet the level of popular acceptance is high. Nearly half those interviewed in a Le Parisien poll thought it a legitimate way for workers to express grievances. Hostages have been treated well and the police rarely intervene, seeming to accept it as a normal part of negotiations. Such direct-action tactics may even spread to UK workplaces. If so, the French laissez-faire attitude is unlikely to prevail. Dismissal for gross misconduct, civil injunctions and prosecution for unlawful imprisonment are legal consequences awaiting would-be British bossnappers.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin LLP solicitors - e-mail:

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