According to The Associated Press, Monday's meeting in the northern French city of Amiens was not going well. As farm tires blocked the doorway, two Goodyear managers were trapped in a conference room with angry French workers who were demanding more money in exchange for the inevitable loss of their jobs.
Goodyear has unsuccessfully attempted to close the plant in Amiens for five years without success. Its latest attempt was met Monday with a "boss-napping," a French negotiating tactic that had largely faded away after the height of the economic crisis in 2009.
The artful strategy is designed to gain management's attention — by holding senior managers "hostage," until such time as they surrender to the equivalent of extortion. Late Monday, one of the captive managers decried the tactic as degrading and humiliating.
COMMENT: The Amiens plant has an especially contentious past. Goodyear's hopes to close the plant have been thwarted by violent protests with huge bonfires, government concerns and France's prolonged layoff procedures. Now, the union is to the point of acceding to accept the inevitable loss of jobs, yet at a cost.
"Clearly it was no longer possible to keep fighting for our jobs," Mickael Wamen, the union president, told LCI television. "So we decided to change tactics and fight for the largest compensation possible.View gallery
In exchange for releasing the managers, they're demanding an 80,000-euro ($108,000) severance package plus 2,500 euros ($3,400) for each year worked.
Some journalists were allowed to enter the room where the managers were being held. The atmosphere inside resembled a college dorm, with several employees laughing and cheering as others rolled a tractor tire into the doorway.
"We've been stuck in this room for three or four hours, and it's out of the question that I respond to questions under pressure," Bernard Glesser, the director of human resources, told journalists in a video posted on the French website "Daily-motion" by the Courrier Picard newspaper.
Unfortunately, things got rowdier when Glesser continued, saying that, while he did not fear for his safety, the situation was "completely disagreeable" as he was being insulted and humiliated. A third worker handed Glesser a portable urinal.
Evelyne Becker, a union representative, said the two were blocked from leaving after an especially difficult meeting with staff. Goodyear confirmed the two managers were being held against their will.
The factory and its nearly 1,200 workers have become an emblem of France's labor issues. Last year, an outspoken American executive who had considered taking it over derided the staff as overpaid loafersView gallery
"The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three," Maurice Taylor, the CEO of Titan tires, wrote to a French government official.
Workers have seized on Goodyear's profitability in their fight against the factory closure, yet the company says profit margins have been slipping for years and the business in Europe isn't sustainable.
The workers have burned tires in protest, fired paintballs at police and come under tear gas spray.
In a statement, the union vowed never to give up its fight to keep the factory open, even though many employees have already conceded.
In the wake of the global financial crisis, "boss-nappings" struck at large global companies. Companies such as 3M, Sony, Caterpillar and a Hewlett-Packard subsidiary were hit in 2009.
The incidents, which usually last from a few hours to a couple of days, are punishable under French law by five years in prison and a 75,000-euro ($102,000) fine, providing the "hostage" goes free in under a week.
Interestingly, the workers are rarely prosecuted, and in many cases they have attempted to make the manager's time in captivity more comfortable.
Unfortunately, whenever laws are ignored by law enforcement, regardless of nationality, and not enforced, the swiftness of justice is negated. Assuredly, the managers who are victims of "boss-napping" are hardly amused by the fact that their freedom is denied.
The end result is that increasingly numerous laws are not enforced which creates a problem in terms of allegations of "selective enforcement" on the part of police organizations.