Industrial Relations

Workers ‘boss-nap’ two managers in France, demanding high redundancy payout

Yolanda Redrup /

A group of workers at a Goodyear tyre factory in France have trapped two managers inside a conference room, with the employees demanding more money for the loss of their jobs.

The employees have been fighting for the factory to stay open for the past five years, but on Monday negotiations came to a head when the workers “boss-napped” their managers.

The practice of “boss-napping” in France first gained widespread media attention during the Global Financial Crisis. In March 2009 the chief executive and human resources director of Sony France were held overnight, as employees demanded a better severance package.

These incidents rarely result in anyone being seriously hurt, but instead are aimed at grabbing the management’s attention.

The two managers from the Amiens plant have been trapped inside a conference room, with large farm tyres blocking the exit.

The workers and union representatives are demanding they be paid more than $121,000 plus $3800 for each year they’ve worked at the company.

The factory has nearly 1200 workers and has been the centre of a number of industrial relations disputes.

Over the past five years Goodyear’s attempts to close or sell the factory have been met with protests, bonfires of tyres and government concerns.

Last year, efforts to sell the plant to United States tyre company Titan International made headlines when Titan’s chief executive, Maurice Taylor, reportedly told France’s industry minister he would be “stupid” to operate in a country where workers are highly paid for little work.

Workers were being paid full wages at the time, but only working for a few hours a day as the plant was winding down operations.

In the current industrial relations debacle, union representatives told a French radio station the managers would be kept captive until a deal was reached.

“Even if we have to wait three or four days, they are not getting out,” French labour union representative Franck Jurek told RTL radio.

“We’re going to get mattresses and everything. We’re sleeping here.”

In an interview with French regional newspaper Le Courrier Picard,union representatives also said they wanted Goodyear to return to trying to find a buyer for the plant, and if this isn’t possible, a voluntary redundancy plan for employees.

TressCox Lawyers partner Rachel Drew told SmartCompany she’s unaware of any similar cases of “boss-napping” arising in the Australian context.

“I don’t think it’s really part of our culture to engage in ‘boss-napping’ or falsely imprisoning those people,” she says.

“In Australia, each state, as well as the federal jurisdiction, have very sophisticated rules about industrial bargaining. There are strict timelines, and the legislations which prescribe steps each party must follow. Then there are penalties which can be applied to employers, employees and employee groups if these procedures aren’t followed.”

Drew says in industries with a large number of employees unions are often involved in industrial disputes. However, she says employers and employees in small businesses need to be upfront.

“It’s important for both sides of the negotiation to be upfront and honest about what the situation is. Many employers might not want to admit there are problems in the business, but it’s essential to be upfront and honest and admit what changes they want to achieve through the measures being proposed,” she says.

Drew says the Australian industrial relations system is “sophisticated and regulated”.

“The Australian approach to industrial disputes is through use of government regulation and in Australia we’ve had the concept of redundancy pay for a long time…. If a business is shutting down, Australian legislation makes it an automatic right to compensation payments,” she says.

“We have a set of minimum entitlements and there are also more generous entitlements… the rationale for this is you avoid this type of situation as compensation is given to people as an automatic right.”

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