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French workers lock up 4 bosses in layoff dispute

Workers at a steel plant in eastern France have locked up four of their bosses in a dispute over layoffs, marking a new eruption of frustration at the fallout of the financial crisis.

world Updated: Jan 21, 2010 17:56 IST

Workers at a steel plant in eastern France have locked up four of their bosses in a dispute over layoffs, marking a new eruption of frustration at the fallout of the financial crisis.

The plant in the town of Fraisses, owned by Swedish manufacturer Akers, is slated to close because of a collapse in orders over the past year, and the plant's 120 workers are to lose their jobs.

Talks Wednesday on severance pay packages broke down and several workers angry with the company's offer locked up the director of Akers France, the director of the Fraisses plant and two human resources directors, said Akers spokeswoman Christine Baudelaire. The workers brought them food and water but woke the four repeatedly during the night, Baudelaire said Thursday.

Similar "Boss-napping" incidents hit factories around France last year, as recession hit companies from tire makers to electronics manufacturers, prompting factory closures and layoffs. The incidents were rarely violent, and the managers were generally released after a day or two. The federal government intervened to settle several disputes.

At the Akers plant, discussions resumed Thursday morning but again broke down. The French junior minister for industry, Christian Estrosi, issued a statement saying the managers would no longer talk to the workers until they are set free.

Estrosi said in a statement he "deplores and condemns with the greatest firmness" the incident. "Nothing can justify such irresponsible behavior."

Benoit Bourg, the human resources director of the Fraisses plant and among those sequestered, said the company has offered all it possibly can to the workers.

The company has seen "a very brutal drop in orders" since the beginning of 2009, Baudelaire said. Akers announced temporary layoffs at its plants in Sweden last year because of the downturn in the global steel market.