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Boss-nappings on the rise in France

Workers are increasingly prepared to risk jail sentences and heavy fines to resolve stalled disputes

BOSS-NAPPINGS are on the rise in France, as angry workers employ increasingly risky measures to resolve disputes.

Yesterday, five bosses at Imperial Tobacco’s Seita plant at Carquefou, near Nantes were held for nearly 24 hours by staff protesting against the factory’s planned closure, with the loss of 327 jobs.

The brutal negotiation method carries stiff penalties. Anyone who illegally detains another person against their will - essentially the crime of kidnapping - can face up to 20 years in prison. The sentence is reduced to five years and a €75,000 fine if the kidnapped person is released in less than seven days.

If several people are involved, or if a person is detained by an organised group - as is often the case in so-called boss-nappings - captors face a long prison sentence and the fine can be as much as €1million.

Few cases, however, make it to court.

Caterpillar was the first company to bring legal action after four of its executives were held for 24 hours in 2009. Earlier this year, Goodyear launched an action against people accused of detaining two of its bosses for nearly 30 hours at its Amiens North factory.

Even when cases reach court, judges take the context of the kidnapping into account. In 2010, 13 postal workers were fined €1,500 after detaining several La Poste bosses.

Companies increasingly give in to workers’ demands rather than risk of the protest escalating.

Even though the 2009 Caterpillar case ended in court, workers whose jobs were under threat had their benefits package increased to the tune of €80,000 per employee.

The same year, workers at the Scapa factory in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, which was due for closure, picked up €1.7million in additional benefits - nearly double what was originally planned - after detaining four executives who then agreed to resume negotiations.

Some take their protests further.

In 2001, staff at the Moulinex plant at Cormelles-le-Royal threatened to blow up the factory if their demands were not met.
More recently, in 2009, staff at the JLG factory in Tonneins made similar threats. In both instances, the company gave in to workers’ demands.

Photo: BFM TV screengrab

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