French cargo workers kidnap bosses

FRENCH workers held two of their executives against their will last week after layoff talks broke down.

Following Servisair Cargo being placed in administration on 31 March, nearly 60 workers of Servisair Cargo prevented Abderahman el Aoufir (right) and Andy Cowie, the chairman and managing director, from leaving the firm’s offices at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport for 24 hours. Starting at 4pm on Thursday the two were only released at 4pm the next day, and then only to accompany the workers, representatives of the Derichebourg Group parent company, and the French government to a meeting with the administrators.

Between 220 and 300 of the company’s 352 employees are facing redundancy and their payout was the source of the friction.

“There has been no violence, no insults, and we are not being mistreated,” Aoufir said at the time. “I understand the workers’ frustration.” However, while he acknowledged that he had been treated well, he said that their demands were “excessive.”

The workers are demanding payments of €30,000 (US$42,700) for those that have worked for up to 10 years at the company plus an additional €2,000 ($2,850) for each additional year’s service.

“He’s only offering to transfer us to new positions within the group as refuse collectors or €1,400 ($2,000) to leave,” a Servisair worker said. “That’s unacceptable. It’s not enough and we’re ready to go all the way. We want to leave with our heads high.”

Manuel da Silva, of the Force Ouvriere union, denied that the two bosses had been kidnapped, instead saying that the situation had simply been one of those “tense discussions that have been prolonged.”

Nonetheless, four of the workers’ ringleaders have been charged with kidnapping, obstruction, disturbing the peace and inflicting psychological violence.

This is only the latest in a series of ‘boss-nappings’ in France in response to redundancies from the economic downturn. Earlier this year 3M, Caterpillar and Sony also suffered managers being kept overnight at their plants and workers threatening to blow up factories

French labour minister, Xavier Darcos, said that these actions had to stop. “Threats and ultimatums are not the answer to anything,” he said.

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