French ex-staff sue Goodyear over 'chemical exposure'

Lille (France) (AFP) –


Around 1,000 former employees at a Goodyear factory in France announced Tuesday that they are suing the US tyre-maker, accusing the company of exposing them to dangerous chemicals.

Goodyear shut the factory in Amiens, President Emmanuel Macron's hometown in the industrial north of France, in 2014 after a bitter six-year dispute between staff and management.

All 1,143 employees at the site lost their jobs.

Most of them are now suing their former employer for allegedly "exposing them to dangerous products without informing them, for cost reasons," the factory's former CGT union leader Mickael Wamen told AFP.

"Goodyear put us in danger in order to shave some cash off the price of the tyres being made," he said.

According to the legal complaint filed at a court in Nanterre in the northern Paris suburbs, the company is accused of exposing employees to "harmful products without protection when substitutes were available".

The company "wilfully neglected to warn and inform its employees of the health risks posed by the usage of these chemical products and manufacturing methods", said the document seen by AFP.

Among them were chemicals known as polyaromatic hydrocarbons, styrene and aromatic amines.

"These wrongful actions have directly caused physical and/or moral damage and other health problems to several hundred employees at the north Amiens factory," their lawyer Fiodor Rilov wrote.

"Some have already died while others have seen increased risks in future health problems," he said, demanding "significant financial compensation".

Among the health problems allegedly linked to chemical use in the factory, he cited the case of a former employee who contracted bladder cancer after working there for 34 years.

French Goodyear staff filed a similar complaint in 2014 against the company in Akron, Ohio, where it is based, Rilov said.

But the court ruled that the case should be heard in France.