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Kidnapping by Goodyear Workers Union Proves It's No Fun Being the Boss in France

Kidnapping by Goodyear Workers Union Proves It's No Fun Being the Boss in France
Image credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

Two Goodyear managers who had been held hostage for more than a day inside a company factory in France regained their freedom Tuesday afternoon after police intervened.

French union workers, angry that the plant in Amiens was going to close, took Michel Dheilly, the plant's direction of production, and Bernard Glesser, the head of human resources, captive on Monday and held them overnight. The union was seeking assurances about bonuses and severance packages for the factory employees who will be out of jobs when the plant closes before the end of this year.

Goodyear refused to come to the negotiating table as long as its employees were being held against their will.

The "boss-napping," as this practice is known, was yet one more entry in a history of violence that has marked the Amiens plant in recent months. In March, workers protested, burned tires and fought with riot police.

Upon hearing of Goodyear's plan to sell the plant, which would put more than 1,000 people out of a job at a time when France is suffering a 10.9 percent unemployment rate, Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg himself attempted to find a buyer for the plant last year. But so far, no one has stepped forward.

France is hardly a friendly environment for companies. Late last month, the country's constitutional court gave President Francois Hollande approval to go ahead with his plan to tax salaries of 1 million euros and above at 75 percent.

And the Goodyear debacle is not the first instance of boss-napping in France. During the economy's nadir in 2009, French workers of Sony, Caterpillar and other companies held managers hostage to send a message about layoffs and severance pay.

But labor lawyer Sylvain Niel told the Associated Press that agreements made under such circumstances were later nullified in court. This should come as no surprise, given that the tactic amounts to a textbook definition of kidnapping and extortion. 

Perhaps the relatively swift conclusion to the Goodyear standoff will show union leaders once and for all that hostage-taking doesn't work as a negotiating tactic. Or perhaps not. Until kidnapping managers becomes a thing of the past, bosses in France should watch their backs.

Related: How to Set Healthy Boundaries in Your Workplace

Brian Patrick Eha is a freelance journalist and former assistant editor at Entrepreneur.com. He is writing a book about the global phenomenon of Bitcoin for Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Random House. It will be published in 2015.

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