3M Exec Held Hostage By French Workers

Striking French 3M workers were holding their boss hostage Wednesday at a plant south of Paris and a regional labor official was to mediate talks between the two sides.

PITHIVIERS, France (AP) -- Striking French workers for U.S. manufacturer 3M held their boss hostage amid labor 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.

AP writers Greg Keller in Paris and Ben McConville in Edinburgh contributed to this article.

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