Sunday, 20 May 2012

‘Bossnapping’ as a response to redundancies

Nick Parsons (Cardiff University) has published a paper on ‘bossnappings’ that occurred in France in 2009-2010 as a response to redundancies. These actions ‘appeared to be acceptable to a large part of the population and tolerated by State apparatuses despite the fact that kidnapping is a criminal offence punishable by five years of imprisonment’.

Bossnappings in France, 2009-2010
When Company Action Outcome
14 Feb 2008 Kléber (Michelin) 2 managers taken hostage for 3 days €2,500 redundancy payment per year of service
March 2009 Sony, 3M, Continental, Caterpillar, Scapa Managers held captive
April 2009 Faurecia Managers held for several hrs
April 2009 FM Logistics Managers held for several hrs
20 April 2009 Molex Managers held for over 24 hrs
22 June 2009 Raguet 3 managers held for several hrs Management agreed to renegotiate redundancy conditions for 73 workers
21 July 2009 Alpharetta Managers held for several hrs Management agreed to renegotiate redundancy terms
22 July 2009 Michelin Managers held for several hrs
9 Sept 2009 Giraud International HR manager held for several hrs
January 2010 Akers 4 managers held for 24 hrs Management signed agreement for redundancy payments
1 Feb 2010 Pier Import 2 managers held overnight
1 March 2010 Siemens VAI MT 2 managers held for 26 hrs Redundancy payments raised from €5,000 to €25,000
10 March 2010 Sullair Europe Manager held captive
Source: Nick Parsons

In fact, bossnappings were not only tolerated, but frequently successful, as can be concluded from the examples Parsons collected from French media reports. While he does not say so, it would seem that media do not always report the outcome of a conflict, so the success rate may well be higher than the examples above suggest.
According to Parsons, the response to the bossnappings can in part be explained by a tradition that has its roots in exclusion of the labour movement and a lack of social dialogue, resulting in radicalisation of trade unions. Early on, anarcho-syndicalism was an influential current. Later, communism came to play an important role. “Despite the growing institutionalization of industrial relations in France, weak collective bargaining structures reinforced a tendency to labour militancy and an emphasis on conflict rather than on collective bargaining.”
However, Parsons argues that the bossnappings have to some extent become part of an ‘institutionalised game’. For one thing, the violence against managers was largely symbolic and they have never complained of ill treatment. Further, demands had a limited scope: “Although radical, the recent spate of ‘bossnappings’ has not seen any demands, such as those that surfaced in 1968, to expropriate the owners of industry and to hand over private companies to workers or the State.”
While Parsons argues that the bossnappings are rooted in a specific French tradition, he suggests they may also be part of a broader emergent social movement against neoliberalism, along with the Spanish indignados<, actions in Greece and factory occupations in the UK.
Nick Parsons, Legitimizing Illegal Protest: The Permissive Ideational Environment and ‘Bossnappings’ in France. British Journal of Industrial Relations. (Abstract)

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