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French 3M workers free manager held hostage

March 26, 2009|Reuters

PITHIVIERS, FRANCE — Workers at a factory operated by the U.S. firm 3M today released the French manager they had held hostage for more than 24 hours until a deal on conditions for laid-off staffers was reached.

The industrial director of the group, Luc Rousselet, was barricaded in an office Tuesday evening and workers had refused to let him out until he agreed to more favorable terms for the 110 employees who face the ax.

"A framework of an agreement allowing for the end of the current crisis on the 3M site in Pithiviers was signed today," a union representative said.

Rousselet left his office early this morning to boos from about 20 workers.

Locking up managers is a tradition in French labor disputes, with police unwilling to intervene to avoid violence.

This month, employees at a Sony factory in southwest France detained the chief executive and human resources director of the Japanese group's French arm and eventually secured better terms for workers facing dismissal.

Unions at the 3M plant in Pithiviers, near Orleans, south of Paris, were demanding more money for departing staffers, guarantees for those remaining and payment of salaries for those who went on strike over the redundancy plan.

"The managers of 3M have committed to take into account all the social consequence of the restructuring project," the union representative said.

Diversified technology group 3M makes products including cellophane tape and optical films for liquid crystal displays. France is its sixth-largest market; it employs 2,800 staffers at eight sites, according to the group's website.

"I am among the 110 people laid off, and I know that I will not find another job in Pithiviers," said Edwige Ferrage, who had worked at the company for 38 years.

On leaving his office, Rousselet said he was satisfied that negotiations had restarted.

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