* Factory manager blockaded in factory
* Workers demand better lay-off terms
* Economic crisis raises social tension in France
* French unemployment rising, new data show
(Adds new quotes, unemployment figures)
By Clotaire Achi
PITHIVIERS, France, March 25 Workers at a
factory operated by the U.S. firm 3M looked set to hold their
French manager hostage for a second night in protest against
plans to lay off half the staff.
The industrial director of the group, Luc Rousselet, was
barricaded in an office on Tuesday evening and workers have
refused to let him out until he agrees to more favourable terms
for the 110 employees who face the axe.
"These people have more to complain about than me and I knew
there was this risk when I came here," Rousselet told reporters
from his office, where the door has been blocked by a wardrobe.
Unions said no agreement had been reached.
"The director says it is impossible for him to negotiate,"
said Jean-Francois Caparros of the Force Ouvriere union.
Locking up managers is becoming a tradition in French labour
disputes, with police unwilling to intervene to avoid violence.
Earlier this month employees at a Sony factory in southwest
France detained the chief executive and human resources director
of the Japanese group's French arm overnight and eventually
secured better terms for workers facing dismissal.
Unions at the 3M plant in Pithiviers, near Orleans, south of
Paris, are demanding more money for departing staff, guarantees
for those remaining and payment of salaries for those who went
on strike over the redundancy plan.
"Until we have a commitment from 3M that they will increase
pay packets and are ready to discuss our conditions for
negotiations, then Mr Rousselet will have to remain here,"
Caparros told Reuters.
"If he wants to involve the police, then he will have to
send for them, but it is out of the question that he leaves
without discussing our conditions," he added.
Diversified technology group 3M makes everything from scotch
tape to optical films for liquid crystal displays. France is its
sixth largest market and it employs 2,800 staff here at eight
sites, according to the group's website.
"I am among the 110 people laid off and I know that I will
not find another job in Pithiviers," said Edwige Ferrage, who
had worked at the company for 38 years.
"I would never have imagined finishing my 3M career like
that. It hurts. I feel humiliated, like all the workers here."
The company has said it needs to cut jobs at Pithiviers to
reduce overcapacity because of falling demand.
"We have had five rounds of negotiations ... and at the end
of the last one we reached an agreement on a certain number of
points, but there are still measures left where there are
substantial points of disagreement," Rousselet said.
Social tensions are rising in France because of the economic
crisis. More than two million people are already unemployed and
hundreds of thousands more are expected to lose their jobs this
year as the recession deepens.
Unemployment jumped by 79,900 in February, a 19.0 percent
rise on the year, new figures showed on Wednesday.
Between 1.2 and 3 million people took to the streets of
French cities last week to denounce the government's handling of
the crisis and workers from a Continental tyre factory facing
closure took to the streets of Paris on Wednesday to protest.
(Additional reporting by Mourad Guichard in Orleans; writing by
Crispian Balmer and Anna Willard; editing by Tim Pearce)