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French workers fighting back at global recession

FRENCH workers staged a sit-in at a Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary in Lyon. French employees of US manufacturing giant Caterpillar Inc marched on Paris to ask the government to save their jobs. And French tire makers for Germany's Continental AG fought to save their factory.

France's workers tapped their rich tradition of labor protests last week to try to resist the economic downturn. They are making their voices heard and sometimes getting what they ask for.

When Caterpillar announced they were cutting 700 jobs in France, workers burned tires in protest in Grenoble and went to Paris to ask the Finance Ministry to intervene with their US bosses to keep two factories open. The government has made no promises but their bid has drawn national media attention.

When heavily indebted Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary RBS Factor abandoned its accounting contract with French auto parts company Preciturn last month, it left more than 200,000 euros (US$253,000) in unpaid bills and no money to pay the wages of the company's 133 French workers.

Nearly 40 workers entered the RBS Factor office in Lyon on Tuesday and staged a 30-hour sit-in, eating, sleeping and playing cards in hallways while union leaders negotiated a deal that saw 149,000 euros transferred immediately to the company with the rest promised within days, said Gerard Sugier of the CFDT union.


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