Where’s the baguette?

May 4, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

The French have not forgotten how to storm the Bastille. But in this case, it’s storming the boss’s office. Whilst the Germans and Greeks have been protesting against how their Governments are handling the global financial hissy fit, the French are putting matters into their own hands. And they might need to with two million already unemployed and 350,000 more layoffs predicted this year.

Several managers in France did the usual – announced downsizing of staff numbers due to restructuring, which is in itself necessary because of the GFC they say. What they really mean to say is “heck, we need to maintain our fat cat salaries and shareholder profits, so tough luck employees. Some of you are getting the boot”.  I doubt that Australians or Americans would take drastic action and “bossnap” the boss on hearing news of “downsizing”.  Australians certainly don’t have the revolutionary spirit in the national DNA. But French workers are not afraid to detain the boss and lock him up in his office with a baguette or two for sustenance.

Sacked French workers of US manufacturer, 3M, held their boss hostage for two days in an attempt to obtain better redundancy packages. And senior managers at the Continental tyre factory in Reims were surprised when workers burst into the meeting room and hurled eggs in protest at the closure of the plant. In March, the President of Sony France was locked in his office by  employees who barricaded the door and windows with tree trunks. Even University presidents are not immune with three academics taken hostage by students protesting against cuts to education funding.

Apparently, the French refer to this tactic as “sequestration”. The police don’t intervene and the bosses are treated very well, although one wonders where the boss sleeps. The French public approve of bossnapping with 45% saying it is justified. Ségolène Royal, the Socialist, said that whilst it was illegal to deprive someone of their liberty, there were times when “workers must smash the barriers of absolute injustice.”

So my advice to French bosses is – have an overnight bag ready and packed in your office complete with baguette – because if the workers are this angry, I doubt they’ll dial up a pizza delivery and then share the pizza with you. As for the normally politically passive Australians, perhaps we could learn to hurl a baguette or two.

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