'Boss-Napping' Victims Freed After 30 Hours
Two bosses held against their will at a Goodyear tyre plant in France have been freed after police intervened.
Workers had resorted to 'boss-napping' and taken the two men captive on Monday, inside a factory the company wants to close.
But, on Tuesday afternoon, a dozen officers arrived at the factory and emerged with the men minutes later.
Workers chanted "we're not the thugs" as the men were led away.
Union members, furious at the release, set fire to tyres outside the factory and defaced the factory's sign to read 'Badyear'.
The seizure of the senior managers at the site in Amiens, which the firm has been trying to sell or shut down for five years, marks a revival of the once-common hostage-taking tactic.
Regarded as more theatre than actual threat, it aims to put pressure on management.
Police do not normally get involved in the disputes but a judge agreed the action because the plant has seen violent protests in the past.
Sylvain Niel, a labour lawyer who has worked on similar issues, said the 'boss-napping' tactic had largely faded away because any agreements reached under duress were later voided by the courts.
He described it as an act of despair by workers "without room to manoeuvre".
Workers at the site are pressing for better redundancy payouts.
Mickael Wamen, the union president, told French television: "Clearly it was no longer possible to keep fighting for our jobs, so we decided to change tactics and fight for the largest compensation possible."
In exchange for freeing the managers, workers demanded an ?80,000 (£66,500) severance package plus ?2,500 (£2,000) for each year worked.
The Goodyear plant's director and human resources chief were kept captive for 30 hours, refusing the offer of blankets and mattresses, according to local newspaper Courrier Picard.
The plant has a particularly contentious past, and has seen violent protests against the closure, including the burning of tyres and firing of paintballs at police.
Those held captive were Bernard Glesser, director of human resources, and head of production Michel Dheilly.
"Things were sometimes animated, sometimes calm, but without any meanness," Michel Dheilly told reporters.
Evelyne Becker, a union representative, said the two had been prevented from leaving after a stormy meeting with staff.
In a statement, Goodyear said: "This kind of initiative, always to be condemned, is especially inopportune and counterproductive at a time when we should concentrate on the future of employees affected by the restructuring, after several years looking for a solution."
The factory and its nearly 1,200 workers has become symbolic of France's labour issues.
Workers have seized on Goodyear's profitability in their fight against the factory closure, but the company says profit margins have been slipping for years and the business in Europe is not sustainable.
The union said in a statement: "We just want to continue to work and not swell the ranks of the unemployed and marginalised, and if for that we have to resort to extreme methods, we won't hesitate to do that."
In the wake of the global financial crisis back in 2009, a number of large companies in France were hit by 'boss-nappings' including 3M, Sony, Caterpillar and a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary.
The incidents, which usually last from a few hours to a couple of days, are punishable under French law by five years in prison and a ?75,000 (£62,000) fine - as long as the boss goes free in under a week, but generally workers are not prosecuted.
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