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).
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.)