Saturday, March 14, 2009

French Workers Hold CEO Hostage

For eighteen hours, the CEO of Sony's Division in France understood what its like to not be in control of the business and cut off to the outside world. In modern times, most French workers suffered continuous massive unemployment rather than layoffs. The current worldwide pandemic of economic meltdowns is being felt from the tiniest hamlets to the most gilded ivory towers. In France, strikes and shutdowns are the most common civil disobediences showing displeasure with the government and the captains of industry. This is a new twist boss knapping, kidnapping the ultimate bad news bearing boss, that is happening with greater frequency.

CEO, Serge Foucher, floats in from plush corporate Headquarters in Paris to give very bad news of a full plant shutdown in a month, bid them all a fond adieu with expectations to blithely float back out leading his flock of executives, except this time the doors were barred by 311 irate workers, who in a communal Howard Beal moment, were not going to take it anymore. The terms and conditions of their unilateral surrender of their jobs were unacceptable and Foucher and Roland Bents, the head Human Resources genius, were staying during the negotiations on severances no matter what!
"We hope that this time our voices will be heard," unionist Patrick Achaguer told Reuters news agency.

Mr Foucher's visit to the plant on Thursday was to be his last before its closure, the AFP news agency reports.

Workers, unhappy that their pay-off is less generous than for staff at other closed French Sony plants, decided to strike and barricaded the site to stop the company executives from leaving.

Cheap payouts that decrease benefits and without equality to similar circumstances have sparked protests in the United States at an Illinois window factory. Those workers barricaded themselves in for days. The French workers gave them food and drink, but the dapper management brigade had wrinkles in those suits from sleeping on the floor the next morning. No five star accomodations for the heartless. Trucks were used to block the entrances. The real problem began with a public pronouncement to the Sony workforce from some executive theoretical bubble that they would convert to a green facility making solar panels, except then it was deemed impractical and the plan shelved for the Pontonx-sur-L'Adour plant going from job to no job. Oops.
"Local officials persuaded us to release our bosses and continue with supervisednegotiations at a council building.

"This time we hope they listen to our concerns properly."

The move is the latest clash between unions and management in France, which is being hit by a wave of factory closures and big lay-offs because of the global economic downturn.

Workers at a Continental tyre plant in northern France hurled eggs at managers yesterday to protest against the loss of 1,200 jobs with the closure of the factory by the German car parts group.

Insult to injury was the lack of consideration of those who worked past age of 55. The final decision to be made by Sony management is whether to press charges for thier captivity. Hmmm, could get ugly. After 18 hours, the best the CEO gave was they would reconsider their exit packages for the workers. Hmmm, corporate speak for no comment of what I really think until I am safely ensconced back in my Parisian rarefied arrondisment.

Well, there certainly is a choice - buy less of Sony's products, thereby forcing them to reduce staff more or buy more to ensure those with a job keep it. Except nobody is dicussing the matter civilly in these times. To that end, a wonderful book, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking About Broken Promises, Violated Expectations and Bad Behavior, from expert Kerry Patterson may perform the right rescues.

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