Eight former employees of the Goodyear tyre factory in northern France have been handed two-year jail sentences for holding their managers hostage in a protest against the plant’s closure, reports The Financial Times.
A court in Amiens said the workers would spend nine months in prison and another 15 months on a suspended sentence for the unlawful confinement of two managers in January 2014.
Reynald Jurek, one of the convicted men, told journalists outside the court that he would appeal against the decision, which he said was “politically motivated”. Hassan Boukri, another of the convicted, said: “The justice system is broken.”
Their sentences — which were longer than some lawyers had expected — highlight a tougher stance by the French judiciary towards lawbreaking industrial action. Historically, courts have treated striking workers’ behaviour relatively leniently.
Olivier Besancenot and 12 others who “bossnapped” managers at La Poste in 2010, for example, were handed suspended sentences. Even these were later overturned because of “extenuating circumstances”.
But Tuesday’s sentences for the Goodyear employees potentially bodes badly for five employees of Air France who will face trial in May over an alleged attack on one of the airline’s senior executives, in which his shirt was torn off and he was forced to flee over a fence.
Employees at the Goodyear tyre factory had held two bosses hostage for about 30 hours to demand higher payouts in respect of more than a thousand planned lay-offs. Both managers were eventually freed by police.
At the time, the incident dealt a blow to the reputation of Europe’s second-largest economy just as the country’s Socialist government was trying to promote a business friendly image.
It followed a spat between then French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg and Texan tyre tycoon Maurice Taylor, who had mooted a potential rescue bid for the plant, only to withdraw on the grounds that French workers were lazy.
Mr Taylor, chief executive of Titan International, told French radio RTL at the time that the bossnapping finally killed any chance of his company orchestrating a rescue of the plant, which employed 1,173 people.
“They’re taking hostages,” he said. “In the US, that’s kidnapping. If they did that in the US, these people would go to jail. Why don’t they just go and rob a bunch of French banks and they could end up buying Goodyear?”