French Workers Shrug, Decide Not to Blow Up Factory After All

July 22, 2009
Buncefield Fuel Depot explosion, by Flickr user r12a

Buncefield Fuel Depot explosion, by Flickr user r12a

Remember those French union workers who got laid off, and decided they'd blow up their factory if they didn't get severance pay? Well, they've changed their mind. For the moment.

Automotive News reports that the striking workers at the New Fabris plant in Chatellerault voted to remove the gas cannisters they'd placed throughout the factory and wired with detonators. The remains of burned-out production machinery will stay, for now.

Reps from the CGT union are to meet tomorrow with French Industry Minister Christian Estrosi to discuss their demands for severance pay from the bankrupt New Fabris. Estrosi had sensibly insisted that threats to destroy the factory end before he would agree to talks.

We imagine the beret-clad workers taking long drags on their unfiltered Gauloise cigarettes,  shrugging with deep Gallic resignation, and singing the Marsaillaise one last time before dismantling the explosives.

But the drama is far from over. "The canisters are being stored and kept under surveillance, and they can be re-installed at any time," CGT union Christian Paupineau, a delegate of the CGT union, warned the Reuters news service.

In June, workers at Raquet, another French parts company, took three executives hostage to protest layoffs. The managers were released after officials agreed to negotiations. And hostages have been seized during other labor disputes in France as well.

Still, the French protests haven't seen anything like the level of violence that flared when 900 workers at bankrupt South Korean automaker Ssanyong occupied a building. That dispute sent 70 people to the hospital.

In the US, the United Auto Workers union was barred from striking under the terms of last autumn's loans to General Motors and Chrysler, which subsequently declared bankruptcy.

[Automotive News (subscription required), photo of Buncefield Fuel Depot explosion by Flickr user r12a]

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