January 7, 2014

French workers at a Goodyear factory in Amiens have been holding two company executives hostage since Monday in the once-common French practice of boss-napping. Goodyear has been trying to shut down the plant for five years, a decision that has prompted huge protests and tire bonfires. “It’s a reaction of despair,” said Sylvain Niel, a labor lawyer who has worked on similar issues. “They have no room to maneuver with the closing of the factory.”

A boss-napping that lasts less than a week is punishable in France with five years in prison and a 75,000 euro fine, although workers are rarely prosecuted. At the Goodyear factory, union leader Michael Wamen said the captive managers had refused offers of mattresses and blankets.


"The boss-napping may be the final chapter in a dispute which started in 2009 when Goodyear management said the plant in France was not competitive enough to keep running and needed modernization to produce the sort of tyres now required on the market.

Goodyear workers rejected plans to tighten costs and labor conditions while across the street workers at the Dunlop tyre plant owned by the same Dunlop-Goodyear parent accepted new conditions. That plant is still producing after receiving hefty investments.

The unions at Goodyear are now no longer fighting to keep the plant open, but want severance packages of between 80,000 euros ($109,100) and 180,000 euros depending on seniority. Management's proposals have not been made public.

The unions also want access to job re-training benefits for 24 months rather than 15, as currently proposed, [CGT union delegate] Frank Jurek said."

Goodyear said in a statement it had filed a complaint against the workers on a lesser charge of "impeding personal mobility."

Maurice Taylor, chief executive of Titan International, said the boss-napping had killed any chance of a takeover for the plant.

Workers at the idled factory, located in the northern city of Amiens had been trying to negotiate redundancy terms with management for nearly a year, after the Texan tycoon Taylor withdrew a potential rescue bid on the grounds that French workers were "lazy" -- triggering a political storm.

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