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An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

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Latest update : 2013-04-05

France's explosive picket lines

In France, more and more factories are closing. Many employees who risk losing their jobs find themselves torn between anger and despair. Our reporters went out to the picket lines and met workers willing to do anything to keep their jobs.

Sophie Bac is sure of it. "The boss thought: 'they are women and there are not many of them, the factory will be able to close easily'". Sophie, a purchasing manager for Socoval, a clothes factory in Cherbourg, risks losing her job. In the space of 15 years, the company has gone through a dozen restructuring plans. But this time, the twenty dressmakers are not going to take things lying down.

"Being told 'we are firing you and the French government will take care of you' was not acceptable for us, Sophie continues. We decided to fight back".

On March 18th, this 34-year-old and twenty of her colleagues, with an average age of 53, decided to take their boss, Eros Catalano, hostage. They locked him for two hours in the company’s offices. Since then, these angry women have been occupying their factory, day and night. They have set up their mattresses in the executives' offices.

But in just the next room, the human resources manager, unperturbed, is still working: she is drafting dismissal letters. "This is the last round of redundancies, she tells us, and this time, I'm going too."

After a 17-day-long battle, the dressmakers finally give up. On April 3rd, they decamp. All twenty-six workers are fired. "It's the end", one of them says, choking back tears.

By Christophe DANSETTE , Johan BODIN

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