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French workers boss-nap managers

  • Workers of the Goodyear tire factory guard the human resources chief, Bernard Glesser, second right, and the firm's production manager Michel Dheilly, right, who have been blocked from leaving the plant in Amiens, northern France, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS — Monday's meeting in northern French city of Amiens was not going well.

As farm tires were rolled in to block the doorway, two Goodyear managers were trapped in a conference room with angry French workers who were demanding more money in exchange for the inevitable loss of their jobs. The morning "meeting" dragged on into the night, and the union said it was settling in for the long haul — with the two executives still captive inside.

Goodyear has tried to shutter the plant in Amiens for five years without success. Its latest attempt was met Monday with a "boss-napping" — a French negotiating tactic that had largely faded away after the height of the economic crisis in 2009.

More theater than actual threat, it aims to grab management's attention — by grabbing management. Late Monday, one of the prisoners decried the tactic as degrading and humiliating.

The Amiens plant has an especially contentious past. Goodyear's hopes to close it have been thwarted by violent protests with huge bonfires, government concerns and France's prolonged layoff procedures. Now, the union is willing to accept the inevitable loss of jobs — but at a cost.

"Clearly it was no longer possible to keep fighting for our jobs," Mickael Wamen, the union president, told LCI television. "So we decided to change tactics and fight for the largest compensation possible."

In exchange for freeing the bosses, they're demanding an 80,000-euro ($108,000) severance package plus 2,500 euros ($3,400) for each year worked.

Some journalists were allowed to enter the room where the managers were being held Monday. The atmosphere inside resembled a college dorm, with several employees laughing and cheering as others rolled a tractor tire into the doorway.

"We've been stuck in this room for three or four hours, and it's out of the question that I respond to questions under pressure," Bernard Glesser, the director of human resources, told journalists in a video posted on the French website Dailymotion by the Courrier Picard newspaper.

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