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French Caterpillar workers detain management on-site since Tuesday

Here's something the Australian Press would probably rather not report on, so we had better, because it is very important.

“Caterpillar management taken hostage by workers in Dijon. New signs of social radicalisation in France”, begins Tuesday’s France2 TV news.

Since Tuesday morning (31 March 09) four Caterpillar managers have been prevented by Caterpillar employees from leaving their director’s office in the Grenoble (France) factory, where 730 jobs are down for the chop.

The report opens with footage of Caterpillar’s human resources manager being allowed to drive out of the factory under medical orders for a cardiac problem after 8 hours of detention by Caterpillar workers.

Meanwhile the workers continued to detain four other managers on the first floor of the factory.

The negotiations began with only about ten workers early Tuesday morning, then, very quickly, a hundred took over the area and confronted their bosses with their demands for negotiations when they tried to leave. The bosses holed up in the offices.

The camera shows a lot of excited workers milling around in the large corridors of the first floor, outside the Director’s office where management has dug-in.

Suddenly the door of the director’s office gives way. The managers are there. They look haggard.

The workers surge in, boo-ing and whistling at them.

“We’re on strike. It’s not unemployment, thug!” a worker calls out twice towards the Director.

The Director General of Caterpillar France, with the almost unbelievable name of Nicolas Polutnik, mumbles incoherently something like, “ In the time to come … free… one could …. wait and see…in order to give a chance ...” It sounds a little as if he is avoiding making any legal commitment by talking nonsense. The press commentator remarks that the director could not come up with anything more.

Someone off-screen calls out, “You’re a thug! You’re a thug!

A worker berates the director from behind: “M le Directeur, you weren’t even capable of calling a meeting to discuss the situation …:”

Caterpillar, the US construction group, announced only two months ago a vast plan to get rid of jobs – 22,000 in the world, 733 out of 2,006 in Grenoble.

This was the only solution that the workers could find - “Taking hostages” - as they call it, in the hope of having their voices heard.

Benoit Nicolas, spokesman from the Workers Federation (Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT) spokesman, speaks through a loud-hailer:

“What we want above all is an equitable sharing of the wealth which has been obtained through the living force of this enterprise, that is to say, the workers!”

Bosses for another night on the office-carpet until they agree to negotiate

Alexis Mazza, representing the employees, said, “Today they [management] refuse to negotiate, therefore they will remain here, they will sleep here, in order to think things over, because you can’t flog workers like that! ”

No negotiation was able to be started on this day (Tuesday 31).

Source: France2 News, Tuesday 31 March 2009, 2000hs edition

No doubt many corporations like Caterpillar, backed up by the same governments which have thrown taxpayers’ money at banks and big business, will be finding ways to communicate with the Caterpillar management at Grenoble. They will be telling them to hold out at all costs, because, if they give in and negotiate, workers throughout the world will see how easy it is to have the upper-hand on the hachet-men of the power-elites.

After all, there is really no reason to keep the management and owners of these factories. The workers could take over now and simply produce for local needs, or trade modestly where there was a need. The same could be said for most large enterprises like this. Vast profits are only necessary where the cost of land and rent are artificially pushed up by land-speculation, more of a problem in the English speaking countries which have different land-tenure laws from Western continental Europe. (And that problem, of course, urgently needs confronting.)


Four executives, including Nicolas Polutnik, Director of Caterpillar-France, have spent Tuesday through Wednesday nights held by their employees in the offices of their factory in Grenoble. About 50 employees relayed each other all night outside the executive offices on the first floor of the factory, then brought the four executives breakfast of croissants and chocolate bread. “We are humane,” one of the representatives of the union federation explained. Negotiations on a redundancy plan (PME - Plan Licenciement Economique ) should recommence on Wednesday morning at 9 am, with the elected members of the Committee of Enterprise (CE) and union representatives.
Source: « Caterpillar: l'intersyndicale lance un appel à Nicolas Sarkozy »
AP | 01.04.2009 | 07:54

Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Minimalist coverage of international news has cocooned Australians into a mindest that, like imposed on Americans, local news is sold as more newsworthy. By consequence, the public are herded into a mindset that what our local leaders in Australia say is the best headline of available leadership.

Media companies make money because the advertising revenue exceeds the cost of news and programming. News reach, news quality and newsworthy prioritisation is irrelevant to profit, so our media doesn't go there and the government provides no incentive for Australian media to do so. TV sheep are fed cheap grass, grass is cheap and media advertisers get their coverage, so the industry profits. The migration of TV from news to 'info-tainment' is because the infotainment can be targeted to a known demographic which sells better to advertisers.

So while the negatives of globalisation impact us, our media denies us access to the benefits of globalisation - lessons from overseas. Local myopia feeds local myopia.

Bring on internet TV so I can watch France 2 and even Al Jazeera.
SBS is still juvenile and Australia's media spin various versions each night of the same home grown tabloid sensationalism - as if Bikie Gangs, AFL scores and misbehaving sportsmen matter?

Check these serious news sites, except but you won't find local junk food and Harvey Norman adverts, sorry!

Am sure there must be some news about this in the English language press. The text below from the Radio Canada site, basically says that some workers in France, fed up with the increasing number of layoffs everywhere in the
country, have resorted to kidnapping or locking up their employers. One of the richest men in France, a certain François Pinault (reminiscent of François Pignon, a stock character in French comedies, a fool) had to be freed from his captors by the police, as a group of enraged protesters had surrounded his car and taken him following a restructuring plan with 1200 layoffs. And in Grenoble, 500 employees of Caterpillar kept four company officers locked in their offices for 24 hours. The liberations happened after a night of "negotiations". In addition, some executives of a 3M factory, and a Sony subsidiary were also taken for several hours by their employees.

Devant l'augmentation continuelle du nombre de mises à pied un peu partout au pays, le mouvement ouvrier français se radicalise de plus en plus et n'hésite plus à user de la violence pour exprimer sa colère.

Ainsi, mardi, deux groupes de salariés ont séquestré leurs patrons respectifs à Paris et Grenoble.

Il a d'ailleurs fallu l'intervention de la police pour libérer, toujours mardi, l'un des hommes les plus riches de France, François Pinault, président du groupe de distribution de produits de luxe PPR.

La voiture dans laquelle se trouvait M. Pinault avait été encerclée une heure plus tôt par une cinquantaine d'employés en colère qui manifestaient contre un « plan d'économie » de PPR devant se traduire par 1200 mises à pied.

À Grenoble, ce sont quelque 500 employés d'une usine locale de la multinationale américaine Caterpillar qui ont séquestré dans son bureau le directeur et quatre autres cadres pendant 24 heures.

Après une nuit de négociations, les manifestants ont accepté, mercredi matin, de libérer leurs victimes. « Les négociations vont se poursuivre à la Direction départementale du Travail (DDT) avec l'intervention du siège
européen du groupe à Genève, de l'État français et du siège américain du groupe », a déclaré aux salariés Pierre Piccarreta, délégué CGT.

Le président français Nicolas Sarkozy a par ailleurs accepté de rencontrer ces salariés.

Les salariés, excédés par l'annonce de 733 licenciements dans cette entreprise qui compte 2800 personnes à Grenoble, exigent de meilleures conditions de licenciement.

Et plus tôt ce mois-ci, les patrons d'une usine de la multinationale américaine 3M et de la filiale française du groupe japonais Sony ont, eux aussi, été séquestrés pendant plusieurs heures par leurs employés. avec Agence France Presse et Reuters