More French Workers Kidnap Factory Bosses

Workers at a French subsidiary of the American company Molex released two bosses they were holding to protest plans to close the plant in southeast France.

TOULOUSE (AP) -- Workers in southwest France freed two bosses Tuesday who had been held for two days by some 50 employees protesting plans to close their plant, Molex Automotive, a subsidiary of the American company Molex.

Marcus Kerriou, co-director of Molex Automotive, said he was relieved but tired after the ordeal. Workers booed their bosses as they left the plant north of the city of Toulouse.

Accompanied by regional officials, Kerriou went to the regional government office for the start of talks with unions representing the workers and regional officials. Those talks were expected to continue Wednesday.

Kerriou had said that he would not negotiate as long as he and the head of human resources, Coline Colboc, were being held.

The breakthrough occurred after a court had summoned union workers representative, Denis Parise, to appear in court in Toulouse after Molex Automotive officials filed a lawsuit alleged "sequestration." After his appearance Tuesday, Parise announced that the sequestration was being lifted.

"There is no question of negotiating in this situation of sequestration," said Kerriou.

"We've slept two hours, we're tired, but the answer is 'no' as long as we're held against our will," Kerriou said by telephone.

Scores of workers interrupted a meeting Monday of employees and managers and seized Kerriou and Colboc.

In October, Molex Automotive announced plans to close the plant and relocate its work to China and the U.S. Some 300 workers are expected to lose their jobs when the plant, which manufactures electrical connectors, ends production June 30. The plant manufactures electrical connectors.

Anger further mounted when, an employee lawyer and a union representative say, workers belatedly discovered that a Molex plant in the Netherlands has been secretly doing the job of the French factory.

"Employees discovered that they were deprived of ... their production so they no longer have confidence in their bosses," said employee lawyer Jean-Marc Denjean.

A company statement issued Monday said the factory was functioning at only 30 percent of its capacity. "If production remains insufficient, we have no choice... The alert level has been reached," the statement said.

Representatives of the Works Department of the Haute-Garonne region were mediating the crisis.

However, union representative Parise vowed that the action would continue.

"The bosses must discuss our proposals," he said, listing them. "Return the stock hijacked to the Netherlands, and withdraw, providing euro100 million in indemnities to the factory. They stole the know-how without investing."

Seizing bosses, while not a new tactic in France, is being increasingly used as a negotiating tool when the economic downturn bodes ill for employment. Those held have not been mistreated.

Workers at a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary, FM Logistic, in eastern France held five bosses for 10 hours last week to protest plans to eliminate 483 jobs starting in June. The managers were freed on promises that no judicial complaints would be filed against the workers and that new proposals would be made.

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