Workers free two Goodyear execs from French plant set for closure

Jan. 7, 2014 at 4:02 PM   |   Comments

AMIENS, France, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Two Goodyear executives held inside a soon-to-be-shuttered plant in France by workers demanding promises of severance packages were freed Tuesday.

The incident was the latest in a string of "boss-nappings" in the country that began during the 2009 recession. Goodyear had said it was planning to close its factory in Amiens, France, several years ago. Efforts to sell it to another American company fell through and Goodyear moved forward with its plan to wind down operations at the facility, which employs 1,200 people.

Workers took matters into their own hands Monday, refusing to let Bernard Glesser, director of human resources, and Michel Dheilly, director of production, to leave the plant. Union leaders demanded hefty severance packages for workers -- $110,000 apiece plus an added $3,400 for every year worked at the plant, the New York Times reported.

Goodyear executives balked and it triggered the standoff.

While the two managers were filmed by journalists with an upbeat demeanor and in no apparent physical danger prior to being held captive, one American businessman who had considered purchasing the plant before his own run-ins with workers called the matter "a very serious crime."

Maurice Taylor Jr., the head of Titan International, a tire-producing competitor of Goodyear, was approached by the French government to see if he was interested in buying and operating the facility.

After numerous run-ins with the plant's union workforce and examining productivity that lags compared with American and other operations, Taylor's answer was succinct: "How stupid do you think we are?"

He lashed out against the French government for allowing the executives to be held by workers for two days before police intervened to end the standoff.

"In the United States, we call this a kidnapping," he told Europe 1 Radio. "These people would be arrested and prosecuted. This is a very serious crime, you would risk life imprisonment. But in France, your government does nothing -- it's crazy."

No severance deal has been reached for the workers and Goodyear said it will begin the shutdown process this month by issuing work redundancy notices.

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