Angry French workers turn to ‘bossnapping’ to solve problems

By LISA BRYANT of VoaNews.com

FRANCE has been hit in recent weeks by a spate of “bossnappings,” as workers vent their outrage at the economic crisis by locking up their supervisors and many French appear to back the protests.

France is proud of its heritage of protest, which stretches back to the country’s revolution more than two centuries ago. But today, some French are venting their anger at a new target, the economic downturn and the business establishment they blame for it, by kidnapping company bosses.

In recent weeks, disgruntled workers have locked up their supervisors, not at the Bastille, but nonetheless in less-than-four-star accommodations, in half a dozen companies around the country that are experiencing layoffs. There is an element of politeness in the seizure of bosses. One employee involved in a so-called “bossnapping” said it wasn’t so bad, adding that they ate well.

Nevertheless, “bossnappings” were condemned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy this week, worried that the recession could provoke a “spring of discontent.”

French bosses are also worried, says Jean-Francois Roubaud, head of the CGPME employers’ union.

Roubaud told French radio he understands workers’ anxiety about the future in this economic crisis, but sequestrations are unacceptable.

In, France the unemployment rate is more than eight percent, the highest level in two years. Nearly 170,000 lost there jobs in January and February alone. Mr. Sarkozy on Friday launched a new fund to re-train laid-off workers.

With such economic pressure, it’s no surprise that many French support the temporary kidnapping of executives.

A survey by the CSA polling agency found a resounding 45 percent of French believe the sequestrations are acceptable. Another poll by IFOP found that about one-third of those surveyed backed the “bossnaps,” while 65 percent understood them. Only seven percent of French condemned them.

Jerome Fourquet, IFOP’s deputy director for polling studies, says it’s important to look at the bossnappings in the context of the economic crisis––companies have been shut down and unemployment has gone up.

Meanwhile, the French are furious about reports of executive bonuses and big payoffs for bosses leaving companies.

One Paris resident, who gave his name only as Thomas, said he sympathized with the workers, but condemned the bossnappings.

Thomas said violent situations lead to violent reactions. But he said it is unfortunate many French have not read the writings of Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi, who supported non-violent action.

But Emmanuel Miranda, 22, is less sympathetic.

Miranda says he doesn’t think bossnappings are the right solution to the problem. Businesses did not choose to have the economic crisis.
The bossnappings are the latest twist to a proud French tradition of protests, including two nationwide demonstrations this year alone over the economic crisis.

And so far, they appear to have paid off. In most cases, the companies involved have agreed to reopen compensation talks or increased severence packages for laid-off workers.

They even seem to be spreading. Angry Fiat automobile workers in Belgium held three managers in their office on Thursday to renegotiate terms for planned job cuts. They released them later that day.

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