French Union: Pay Us, Or We'll Blow Up the Plant

Sunday, July 19, 2009

As French unemployment creeps relentlessly higher, the country’s famously tough labor unions are getting even more aggressive. First, they tried “bossnapping” --taking their bosses hostage . Now, unions at a bankrupt auto-parts factory are threatening to blow the place up unless its two principal customers, Renault and PAS Peugeot Citroen, fork over some $14 million in severance payments to workers.

The unions say they have placed gas canisters throughout the New Fabris factory in the town of Chatellerault, about 200 miles southeast of Paris, and will detonate them on July 31 unless the automakers pay $42,000 to each of its 336 employees. “If we don’t get anything, they’ll have nothing at all,” a union representative told the newspaper Le Figaro, referring to factory machinery and inventory, valued at about $5.6 million, that either belongs to or had been ordered by the two automakers.

New Fabris, which entered bankruptcy proceedings last November, has few assets available to pay laid-off workers. But union leaders contend that Renault and PSA, because they have received nearly $4 billion apiece in government bailout loans, have an obligation to help. Not surprisingly, the automakers disagree. “We can’t be expected to support, by ourselves, the restructuring of 12% of the French economy,” a PSA spokesman told Reuters.


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