French Workers Get Cash After Threats

PARIS (AP) -- A French construction equipment plant owned by U.S.-based Oshkosh Corp. has agreed to boost severance packages for laid-off workers who threatened to blow up machinery, employees said Friday.

While the number of workers affected is small -- 53 workers, each guaranteed up to euro30,000 ($42,270) in severance -- the incident came during a week in which unions at three different French factories used threats of explosions to get their complaints heard.

Some desperate French workers have gone to extremes in recent months, from kidnapping their bosses to blocking production lines, to resist job cuts or win better departure packages amid the worst economic downturn in decades.

Workers at construction equipment maker JLG's factory in Tonneins in southwest France briefly put gas canisters in front of the plant this week, threatening to blow up machinery if they didn't get more severance pay. The plant, a subsidiary of Oshkosh, Wisconsin-based Oshkosh Corp., announced earlier this year that it was laying off 53 of its 163 employees.

The workers removed the canisters as soon as local government officials agreed to meet them for talks.

Christian Amadio, head of the factory's workers' council, said that at four-hour talks Thursday with JLG management and a local government mediator, the company offered to pay euro30,000 per laid-off worker on condition that the workers return to work Monday, Amadio said. The 53 workers will be officially laid off on September 28.

Mediator Pierre Martin said the workers will have two options, a plan allowing them to receive job training in other fields and receive an extra euro25,000 in severance, or opt out of the plan and receive euro30,000.

The workers' council approved the proposal Friday, Amadio said.

JLG company officials declined to comment on the agreement.

The threats against JLG, followed a case in the central French town of Chatellerault, where laid-off workers at auto parts supplier New Fabris aren't backing down. The 366 workers are demanding that carmakers PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Renault SA agree to pay euro30,000 for each employee. They have threatened to blow up the factory on July 31, using gas canisters they've placed around the building.

They started threatening the company's clients PSA and Renault on June 20.

Workers at French plant owned by Canada's Nortel workers used gas canisters to demand similar pay-outs, but later retracted the canisters and met with officials at the Industry Ministry about ways to save the company.

Police have not intervened in any of the incidents, and government officials have said they understand the workers' woes but criticized the violent tactics.

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