French workers trash factory in job cuts protest

Workers ransacked offices at a French car parts factory today in a protest over job losses.

They smashed windows and destroyed equipment at the Clairoix plant and local government offices in nearby Compiegne.

Their reaction to a ruling by a French court that the factory’s planned closure next year by German owners Continental was legal prompted new concern about increasingly violent French worker protests.

Today managers distributed leaflets reading: “We have no other choice but to suspend production as well as the whole of the site’s activities until further notice.”

French government officials condemned the workers’ rampage.

Budget Minister Eric Woerth called the vandalism at the regional administration “unacceptable”.

“To go ransack the state’s property when the state is the only recourse for all of these employees, it’s rather paradoxical. This needs to stop,” he said.

The French government has promised to mediate labour negotiations at the Clairoix site over conditions of the closure.

Continental workers have drawn nationwide attention, meeting with top government officials at the presidential palace, burning tyres in the streets of the capital and leading weeks of protests.

Their actions are part of a wave of increasingly radical employee actions to fight redundancies and cutbacks prompted by France’s worst economic performance in 30 years. Workers have held managers hostage and blocked production at sites around the country.

Yesterday workers in south-west France released two bosses held for two days over plans to shut a subsidiary of American automotive company Molex.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon criticised what he called a small minority of “very violent” workers who are hijacking peaceful union mediation efforts.

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