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Bosses held as workers protest job cuts

ANGRY French workers facing layoffs at a Caterpillar factory briefly detained four of their bosses at the United States manufacturer's plant in the Alps yesterday in protest at the job cuts.

It is the third time in the past few weeks that French workers have seized their bosses to protest job losses stemming from the global economic crisis.

Last week, workers at a 3M plant south of Paris held the company boss for two days, and earlier this month workers at a Sony plant held a similar protest.

In a new twist, the mayor of the small town of Pont-Saint-Esprit in southern France was prevented from leaving the city hall by townspeople angry over municipal management amid the economic downturn. Phone calls to the mayor's office went unanswered, but the local police confirmed there was a "crisis."

Workers occupied parts of the Caterpillar plant in Grenoble yesterday morning and detained the managers. Police later moved in to clear out the seized areas and the managers were freed, said Chrystele Aubert, chief of communication for the regional government.

"The situation is now calm," she said, adding that the Caterpillar management was negotiating with the workers.

Unions representing the workers said they had detained the managers because they wanted new talks on Caterpillar's layoff plans at the site. The plant that produces building equipment is supposed to cut 733 jobs in two of its factories in France.

"There is no violence or sequestration, but simply pressure so they restart negotiations," said union spokesman Pierre Piccarreta.

In February, Caterpillar France said it was facing a 55-percent loss of orders between 2008 and 2009.


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