4 thoughts on “French workers hold 3M boss hostage

  1. French workers burn tires, hold 3M manager hostage

    By EMMA VANDORE
    AP Business Writer

    Posted: Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2009

    Continental employees of the Clairoix plant, northern France, demonstrate Wednesday March 25, 2009 at the Gare du Nord station in Paris. Workers at the factory, which employs 1,120, agreed in 2007 to a 40-hour work week, up from France’s standard 35-hour week, to boost productivity and keep the site open. German auto parts and tire company Continental AG recently said it would stop producing tires at its plant in Clairoix and reduce capacity at other sites in Europe, laying off workers as a result.

    Continental employees of the Clairoix tire plant, northern France, burn tires and a photograph of plant director Louis Forzy during a demonstration Wednesday March 25, 2009 in Paris. Workers at the factory, which employs 1,120, agreed in 2007 to a 40-hour work week, up from France’s standard 35-hour week, to boost productivity and keep the site open. German auto parts and tire company Continental AG recently said it would stop producing tires at its plant in Clairoix and reduce capacity at other sites in Europe, laying off workers as a result. Banner reads: ‘Caviar for shareholders, workers out.’

    Continental employees of the Clairoix plant, northern France, demonstrate Wednesday March 25, 2009 in Paris. Workers at the factory, which employs 1,120, agreed in 2007 to a 40-hour work week, up from France’s standard 35-hour week, to boost productivity and keep the site open. German auto parts and tyre company Continental AG recently said it would stop producing tyres at its plant in Clairoix and reduce capacity at other sites in Europe, laying off workers as a result. Banner reads: Continental fighting.

    PARIS French workers burned tires, marched on the presidential palace and held a manager of U.S. manufacturer 3M hostage Wednesday as anger mounted over job cuts and executive bonuses.

    Rising public outrage at employers on both sides of the Atlantic has been triggered by executives cashing in bonus checks even as their companies were kept afloat with billions of euros (dollars) in taxpayers’ money and unemployment soars.

    As the U.S. administration seeks ways of recouping some of the $165 million in bonuses paid to executives at insurance giant American International Group Inc., kept afloat by $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money, French President Nicolas Sarkozy is threatening new laws on bonuses and golden parachutes.

    Sarkozy is also trying to deflect anger against his government’s failure to ward off the job losses and economic hardship that comes with recession.

    The euro3.2 million ($4.3 million) exit bonus paid to the former head of Valeo SA, an auto parts maker that received state aid, has fueled outrage in France. Controversy also grew Wednesday over bonuses at brokerage company Cheuvreux, a unit of a French bank that got state handouts.

    “The risks of repercussions of ill-feeling from employees and from a political backlash are real if execs continue to be compensated at pre-crisis levels,” said Cubillas Ding, a senior analyst at financial research firm Celent. “Bonus and pay cuts are now seen as the politically correct thing to do.”

    Rising public outrage at employers has led to kidnappings, marches and strikes in France, a country with a long tradition of labor unrest.

    A French 3M executive was being held hostage for the second day at a plant in Pithiviers, south of Paris, as workers protested layoffs. The situation was calm, however, with labor talks taking place there Wednesday.

    Detained 3M manager Luc Rousselet told an AP reporter “Everything’s fine” and workers planned to bring him mussels and French fries for dinner.

    In Paris, rage boiled over into an angry march on the presidential palace and a bonfire of tires set alight by workers from Germany’s Continental AG, whose auto parts factory in Clairoix, northeast of Paris, plans to shut down in 2010.

    Similar resentment is emerging in many parts of Europe. Vandals smashed windows early Wednesday at the home of the former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland. Sir Fred Godwin resigned in disgrace but waltzed out at age 50 with an annual pension of about 700,000 pounds ($1.2 million).

    Bonus payments are dominating headlines in Sweden, which prides itself on a relatively egalitarian society. Big companies like truck maker Volvo and bank SEB have been forced to withdraw compensation schemes for top executives amid public outrage.

    And in Switzerland, top executives at UBS AG, which is benefiting from a $60 billion government bailout, have given up their 2008 bonuses.

    Henri Guaino, a top aide to Sarkozy, issued an ultimatum to French employers, saying in a radio interview Wednesday that the government will step in and legislate if France’s main employers’ federation, Medef, doesn’t come up with proposals setting guidelines on executive pay by March 31.

    Medef chief Laurence Parisot was expected to respond to Sarkozy shortly.

    Executives from government-assisted banks like Societe Generale to Dexia have come under fire over their compensation, as the global crisis has prompted the state to take a bigger role in corporate France.

    Thierry Morin, the former head of Valeo, was awarded a euro3.2 million ($4.3 million) exit package after citing “strategic differences” and leaving. The government, which owns 8 percent of Valeo, said it will oppose the payment, and even Parisot urged Morin to hand back his check.

    The mood soured further after Liberation newspaper reported Wednesday that Cheuvreux executives will get bonuses worth euro51 million even as the bank is cutting 75 jobs. Its parent company, Credit Agricole, took euro3 billion in a government bailout plan last year.

    The bank declined to confirm the amount, but said 2008 bonuses will be paid. Job cuts are on a voluntary basis and concern 31 positions, the bank said.

    “There shouldn’t be any more bonuses, distribution of free shares or stock options in companies which get state aid” or who make large job cuts, Sarkozy said late Tuesday in the northern town of Saint-Quentin.

    Associated press writers Scott Sayare and Laurent Pirot in Paris, George Frey and Antje Homburger in Frankfurt, and Ben McConville in Edinburgh contributed to this report.
    AP writers Greg Keller in Paris and Ben McConville in Edinburgh contributed to this article.

  2. French strikers hold 3M exec hostage amid talks

    Updated Wed. Mar. 25 2009 1:06 PM ET

    The Associated Press

    PITHIVIERS, France — Striking French workers for U.S. manufacturer 3M held their boss hostage amid labour talks Wednesday at a plant south of Paris, as anger over layoffs and cutbacks mounted around the country.

    While the situation at the 3M plant outside Pithiviers was calm, worker rage elsewhere boiled over into an angry march on the presidential palace in Paris and a bonfire of tires set alight by Continental AG employees whose auto parts factory was being shut down.

    While France has a long tradition of labor unrest, the latest wave of hostage-takings, marches and strikes has echoed across Europe, as the global slowdown fans job fears and leaves many workers skeptical of their leaders’ ability to solve the crisis.

    The French division of 3M — a diversified U.S. manufacturer known for Post-It notes and Scotch tape — recently announced layoffs and job transfers among its 2,700 workers at 13 French sites. Among those targeted are 110 of the Pithiviers factory’s 235 workers.

    A few dozen workers at Pithiviers took turns standing guard Wednesday outside factory offices where the director of 3M’s French operations, Luc Rousselet, has been holed up since Tuesday. The workers did not threaten any violence and the atmosphere was calm.

    A few police officers stood outside, while workers inside exchanged jokes and worries about their future amid heaps of empty plastic coffee cups and boxes of cookies.

    Talks among 3M workers and management resumed Wednesday mediated by a local labor official. Rousselet was not taking part. Workers want better severance packages for those being laid off and better conditions for those keeping their jobs.

    In France, it is not unheard-of for striking workers to hold company executives as a way of winning concessions from management. The hostages are almost never injured. A similar situation ended peacefully earlier this month at Sony’s French facilities.

    “We don’t have any other ammunition” other than hostage-taking, said Laurent Joly, who has worked at the Pithiviers plant for 11 years and is angry that he is being transferred to another French site.

    “I really have the impression that we no longer exist for these people,” Genevieve Camus, who has worked for the plant for 35 years, said of the company’s U.S. management.

    The Maplewood, Minnesota-based 3M is also planning job cuts at facilities in the United States and other developed nations.

    The 3M workers at Pithiviers have been on strike since Friday. Hamon said Rousselet was blocked from leaving the factory Tuesday after arriving from 3M France headquarters near Paris.

    Store owners in Pithiviers were shutting down early on Wednesday to support the factory workers.

    When Rousselet came out of the guarded office to go to the bathroom Wednesday, workers booed him while reporters asked how he was holding up.

    “Everything’s fine,” he said.

    Workers planned to bring Rousselet mussels and french fries for dinner if he was still there Wednesday night.

    In Paris, an acrid plume of black smoke from burning tires wafted mere blocks from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s Elysee Palace. It was a clear signal that French labor unrest over the state of the euro zone’s second-largest economy had taken an ugly turn for the worse.

    Faced with what it calls the collapse of the European auto market, Germany’s Continental recently announced plans to close the plant in Clairoix, northeast of Paris, in 2010.

    “We shouldn’t let this company close down, otherwise it means that all these robber bosses can do whatever they want to,” said Antonio Da Costa, a union representative.

    Rising public outrage at employers also surfaced in Scotland.

    Vandals attacked the home and car of the former head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, smashing windows early Wednesday at the house of the ex-CEO who resigned in disgrace but walked out with an annual pension of about 700,000 pounds ($1.2 million).

    Three windows were smashed at Fred Goodwin’s sandstone Victorian house in one of Edinburgh’s wealthy suburbs. The rear window of a black Mercedes S600 car parked in the driveway was also smashed.

  3. ROMANIA: International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials announced on Wednesday that crisis-hit Romania will receive 20 billion euros (£18bn) in rescue loans from a group of lenders led by the US-dominated organisation.

    Romania, which agreed to “an immediate and sustained fiscal consolidation” in return for the loan, is the third EU member to receive an IMF-led bailout loan after Hungary and Latvia.

    http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/world/world_in_brief__30

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