RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – So how explosive is the world’s labor crisis getting? Check out the popular new rage in France – “bossnapping.”
More and more disgruntled French workers are taking their bosses hostage as a last-ditch plea to keep their jobs or at least get extended “redundancy” pay – what we call severance in the States. (At bankrupt Nortel, however, severance has a new meaning – as in severed without any pay.)
Would a U.S. venture-backed firms facing a liquidity crisis ever resort to hostage taking to get investors to ante up more cash? The brass-knuckle ploy worked with Royal Bank of Scotland.
Employees at one French firm, Préciturn, went as far as to march into a local RBS bank office and take it over. They wanted the bank to “float” some cash to keep the company operating. Two RBS executives traveled by high-speed train from Paris to the community where the showdown had taken place and wrote a check to help keep the engineering firm open, according to the London Times.
As Reuters and the Times have pointed out in recent reports, the “bossnapping” ploy is spreading, and many French citizens support the idea.
Forty-five percent of people in a new poll for Le Parisien said "bossnapping" is acceptable. Fifty percent condemned it.
The poll was taken after a series of recent incidents at Sony, 3M and Caterpillar were not condemned by French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
"They are not in the majority … but 45 percent is an enormous percentage, and it demonstrates the extent of exasperation among the public at this time of economic crisis," Le Parisien said of the poll.
Among the rank-and-file workers, 56 percent say “bossnapping” is OK with them.
Among the white-collars, as you would expect, the percentage of backers is lower but still approved by 41 percent.
“Public opinion is behind the bossnappers,” The Times pointed out. “President Sarkozy, fearful of a social explosion of the sort that has rocked France so often in the past, has avoided the suggestion that bossnappings might be wrong and pledged support for protesting workers.”
However, a former labor minister in France told Reuters that the “bossnappings” could escalate into violence.
"These hostage takings, we know how it starts but no one knows how far it can go," Xavier Betrand said.
Will desperate workers resort to “bossnappings” here? Who knows. As we noted Tuesday in The Skinny, even President Obama has talked about “pitchforks” in a meeting with bankers.