Hundreds of French workers take bosses hostage

Caterpillar's French staff say they are angry about a lack of negotiations over layoffs.
Hundreds of French workers, angry about proposed layoffs at a Caterpillar office, were holding company executives hostage Tuesday, a spokesman for the workers said.

The hostage taking is the latest in a string of protests in France sparked by the economic downturn and job losses. Last week French workers held the manager of a factory run by U.S. company 3M hostage in his office for more than 24 hours over a labor dispute. The new incident began Tuesday morning at the office of the construction equipment company in the southeastern city of Grenoble. The workers were angry that Caterpillar had proposed cutting more than 700 jobs and would not negotiate, said Nicolas Benoit, a spokesman for the workers’ union. The workers did not want to harm the Caterpillar executives but instead wanted to get them to negotiate, Benoit told CNN.

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The workers were inside the Caterpillar building holding five employees, including the head of operations, captive in their offices, Benoit said. About 500 employees were also outside the building protesting. CNN could not immediately reach a representative at Caterpillar for comment. Benoit said all the workers wanted to do was negotiate with Caterpillar and they were upset that the company did not show up to two earlier scheduled meetings. The workers being held in their office were being allowed to get food, Benoit added. Police had arrived at the scene two hours after the incident started but it had not been settled.