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Striking French workers release 3M manager

FRENCH workers released a manager of US manufacturer 3M held hostage for two days in a labor dispute over layoffs, the company said today, amid rising French unemployment and public outrage at employers.

A new poll indicated that French worker frustration remains high, with a majority of respondents predicting more violent incidents in response to the economic crisis. The hostage-taking was one of many recent efforts by French workers to protest the downturn.

Workers at a 3M factory in Pithiviers locked manager Luc Rousselet in an office Tuesday, demanding better severance packages for those laid off and better conditions for those who keep their jobs.

After discussions Wednesday that ran into the night, Rousselet was released overnight, company spokeswoman Catherine Hamon said. Rousselet, unharmed, then left the factory grounds.

Negotiations between workers and management over details of the layoff plan were to resume Thursday at regional administrative offices, according to regional official Christian Piccolo.

The manufacturer, based in Maplewood, Minnesota, has announced thousands of layoffs worldwide amid the economic downturn, including 110 of the 235 jobs at the Pithiviers factory.

Anger has been growing markedly on both sides of the Atlantic over job cuts and high bonuses for executives whose companies were kept afloat with billions of euros (dollars) in taxpayers' money.

In France, that anger has led to kidnappings, marches and strikes in a country with a long tradition of labor unrest.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is threatening new laws to curb excesses in bonuses and executive severance packages. Sarkozy is also trying to deflect anger against his government's failure to ward off the job losses and economic hardship.

The French government announced Tuesday that 80,000 people had been added to unemployment rolls in February.

A poll published Wednesday showed that 64 percent of respondents predicted that the French would "revolt" against the crisis with more violent incidents. Some 58 percent blamed banks for the crisis, followed by political leaders.

The poll by TNS-Sofres questioned 970 people by telephone March 17-18. No margin of error was given, though it would be about plus or minus 3 percentage points for a poll of this size.


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