* Two Goodyear execs held for 24 hours by unionists
* CGT trade unionists seeking more severance pay
* U.S. tyre executive: 'We'd call this a kidnapping'
By Nicholas Vinocur
PARIS, Jan 7 French trade unionists held two
executives overnight on Tuesday at the country's Goodyear
tyre plant - a flashpoint for France's troubled
industrial relations - to demand higher pay-outs for more than a
thousand planned layoffs.
Workers at the idled factory in the northern city of Amiens
have been trying to negotiate redundancy terms with management
for nearly a year, after Texan tyre tycoon Maurice Taylor
withdrew a potential rescue bid on the grounds that French
workers were lazy - triggering a political storm.
After a court rejected their most recent appeal against the
plant's closure, members of the hard-left CGT union locked up
production and human resources directors Michel Dheilly and
Bernard Glesser on Monday.
France 2 TV showed the Goodyear executives seated at a table
staring straight ahead as workers shouted in their ears. One
director had a bed pan thrust in his face. The unionists said
the two men were being amply supplied with food and water.
The so-called "boss-napping" is the first since a spate of
them in 2009 prompted conservative ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy
to give police powers to intervene by force if necessary.
Tough labour tactics have declined under Socialist President
Francois Hollande. But the situation in the factory, where the
hardline CGT has majority staff backing, creates a dilemma for
the left-wing government wary of cracking down too hard on
protests by their blue-collar voters.
"We're ready to go all the way," said CGT union delegate
Franck Jurek. "It can last for a few more hours, it can last for
a few days or a few weeks. As long as our demands are not met,
these two people stay with us."
"WE'D CALL THIS A KIDNAPPING"
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
modernisation to produce the sort of tyres now required on the
Goodyear workers rejected plans to tighten costs and labour
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
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, Jurek said.
"We've decided with the workers to change tactics to extract
as much money as possible," he added.
While holding a person against their will for less than 7
days is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a 75,000-euro
fine, courts rarely enforce the penalties. Goodyear said in a
statement it had filed a complaint on a lesser charge of
impeding personal mobility.
The police declined to comment on the case.
Maurice Taylor, chief executive of Titan International
, said the boss-napping had killed any chance of a
takeover for the plant.
"In the United States, we'd call this a kidnapping," he told
Europe 1 radio. "These people would be arrested and charged...
In France your government does nothing, it seems crazy."