French workers hold plant executives hostage

By Nick Pritchett

On 6 January 2014, workers at a Goodyear factory in Amiens, France, ‘boss-napped’ two directors over plans to close the site. We consider the factors that led to this and the practical steps employers can take to manage redundancy situations.

The Goodyear factory has been running at a loss for several years and the union has previously rejected offers of voluntary redundancies. Further talks took place between management and the union to try and agree terms for the proposed closure of the site, but these failed resulting in the ‘boss-napping’. In particular, the union is pushing for a more generous redundancy plan and vowed to keep the directors hostage until guarantees are given over redundancy packages. According to the union, the directors were held in a meeting room for more than 24 hours. Goodyear has refused to negotiate.

Boss-napping became commonplace in France in 2009 after the financial crisis as a form of protest against redundancies. Although boss-napping has yet to be seen in the UK, serious stand-offs have occurred such as at Grangemouth in October 2013. In that case, Ineos closed its refinery and petrochemical plant, threatening that redundancies would follow unless workers agreed to pay freezes and changes to their pensions and conditions. Although the workers capitulated rather than face redundancy, there was considerable negative publicity for Ineos…

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