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France

Continental workers trash building over plant closure

Latest update : 2009-04-21

Workers at the Continental tyre factory in the French town of Clairoix have trashed two of their company's buildings after learning that an attempt to prevent the plant's closure in court had failed.

Reuters - Workers from a tyre factory in France trashed two buildings on Tuesday after learning that an attempt to block the planned closure of their plant in court had failed.

German car parts maker Continental, which operates the plant at Clairoix in northern France, announced on March 11 it would close the site as well as a German plant at Hanover because of a severe auto industry crisis.

Since then, Clairoix workers have staged a series of protests to combat the closure, which will eliminate 1,120 jobs. They hurled eggs and insults at managers on March 12, and on March 25 they burnt tyres on Paris streets.

They also launched legal action to stop the closure, arguing management had failed to consult with employee representatives as required by French law. The suit was rejected by a court in the eastern town of Sarreguemines.

"Until now they have seen the Continental lambs. From now on, we are lions! We have been restrained for five weeks, now we will let loose," Xavier Mathieu, a worker representative from the CGT union, told staff after the court decision.

Television footage showed them reacting by smashing windows and breaking equipment inside a reception building at the entrance of the Clairoix factory.

Earlier, they had gathered at a local government building in the town of Compiegne, near Clairoix, to await the decision.

When it came, they stormed the building, throwing desks, chairs and computers out of the window.

"There is nothing left. It all happened in 10 minutes," Mathieu told Reuters by telephone from Compiegne.

Luc Chatel, secretary of state for industry, condemned these actions.

"These are unjustifiable and intolerable acts. Violence will resolve nothing in this economic crisis we are enduring," he told Reuters, adding that he had proposed government mediation between Continental management and staff to defuse the conflict.

Worker action to resist mass layoff plans has become increasingly radical in France since early March, including several "bossnappings" in which employees have detained managers overnight in their offices.
 

Date created : 2009-04-21

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