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Sunday, May 23, 2010

French Sony Workers Held Company Chief Executive Hostage Overnight

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Serge Foucher, the CEO, and Roland Bentz, the head of human resources, were unable to leave the factory or be rescued on Thursday night after workers barricaded the entrance with tree trunks.

The two men were finally allowed to walk free from the plant at Pontonx-sur-l'Adour in southwestern France yesterday morning after local authorities persuaded both sides to go back to the negotiating table outside the factory.

"We are all going to be fired. We want to be treated in a dignified manner," said Patrick Achaguer, a member of the CGT union.

Industrial tensions in France hit their highest levels this week since the start of the financial crisis.

"I am happy to be free and to see the light of day again," said an exhausted looking Mr Foucher. The CEO had gone to the factory on Thursday to meet its 311 workers one last time before its closure on April 17.

The country witnessed angry scenes this week, when the head of German tyre giant Continental's plant in Clairoix, north of Paris, was pummelled with raw eggs after unexpectedly announcing that 1,210 workers were to lose their jobs.

Continental's decision angered President Nicolas Sarkozy's government – which has given more than 12 billion euros in loans to protect France's auto sector – and he has complained to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.

France's largest firm, the energy giant Total, sparked fury among unions and the government this week after announcing it would shed 555 posts through voluntary redundancies and retirements less than a month after announcing the biggest annual profit in French corporate history.

Next week, trade unions will stage a nationwide one-day general strike to protest falling living standards and growing job losses.

Unemployment has broken then two million mark, eight per cent of the active population, and France is expected to enter a recession this quarter.

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