French Workers Reject Renault Compromise

Renault rejected pleas for handouts by laid-off workers at a French auto parts supplier, offering a compromise that employees said wasn't enough to defuse threat to blow up their factory.

BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT, France (AP) -- Carmaker Renault SA on Thursday rejected pleas for handouts by laid-off workers at a French auto parts supplier, offering a compromise that employees said wasn't enough to defuse their threat to blow up their factory.

The protest by workers at parts supplier New Fabris in central France is the latest example of violent measures French workers are resorting to in resisting job cuts and cost cuts amid the country's worst recession in decades.

The workers met with Renault managers at the company's headquarters outside Paris on Thursday, demanding payouts of euro15,000 ($21,000) for each of the 366 laid-off workers.

France's No. 1 carmaker agreed to buy up equipment left at the shuttered plant "on condition that the proceeds be used to supplement the indemnities of the employees," according to a statement from the company. It gave no estimate of how much Renault could spend on the equipment or how much could trickle down to workers.

"It is not the client's role" to give out cash to workers at a defunct supplier, Renault spokeswoman Gita Roux said.

PSA Peugeot-Citroen took the same position when workers at New Fabris made the same demand last week.

After the Renault meeting, the workers said the company's offer would amount to at maximum euro3,300 per worker in extra severance pay and that it wasn't enough.

"We were not expecting a miracle, but Renault has shown itself to be particularly obtuse. We are maintaining our threat to blow up" the New Fabris factory, said Guy Eyermann of the CGT union.

A few dozen riot police guarded the streets surrounding Renault's headquarters in Boulogne-Billancourt, where the workers held an impromptu march after the meeting.

About 30 workers stayed behind in the city of Chatellerault to guard 20 gas canisters linked by an electric cable on both sides of the New Fabris factory. It is unclear whether the canisters are full.

New Fabris closed down June 16. Workers blamed Peugeot-Citroen and Renault for canceling contracts that represented the bulk of the company's sales, and threatened to blow up the plant if they don't get money from the carmakers by July 31.

The shuttered factory still holds parts and costly machinery.

The explosion threat has prompted copycat actions at other plants.

Workers at construction equipment maker JLG Industries, a subsidiary of Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp., put gas canisters in front of a plant in southwestern France on Wednesday to protest layoffs.

The JLG plant in the town of Tonneins announced earlier this year that it was laying off 53 of its 163 employees, said Christian Amadio, head of the factory's workers' council.

Workers threatened to blow up machines at the plant if they didn't receive euro16,000 ($22,600) per laid-off worker, but removed them when local government officials agreed to meet them for talks Thursday.

Company officials declined to comment on the conflict.

Other French workers have kidnapped their bosses, blocked ports and barricaded factories to try to save jobs in France's worst recession since the 1940s.

Associated Press Writer Helene Goupil in Paris contributed to this report.

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