Reuters, March 31, 2009 11:12am EDT
LYON, France, March 31 (Reuters) - Dozens of workers facing the sack at a factory run by U.S. company Caterpillar Inc (CAT.N) detained four managers on Tuesday and demanded further talks on the announced layoffs, a union official said. The world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment plans to slash jobs in various countries and the union official said 733 workers were set to go at the site in south eastern France out of a total of 2,700 staff.
The plant's director, the head of human resources and two other managers had been locked in an office since Tuesday morning "in a good-natured atmosphere", said Alain Massy, a representative of the moderate CFDT trade union.
Locking up managers is becoming a common practice in France when mass lay offs are announced, with police apparently reluctant to intervene to avoid violence.
Managers at plants run by Sony (6758.T) and 3M (MMM.N) have been effectively been held hostage this month in disputes over planned redundancies. On both occasions, unions said they managed to wring concessions from the executives.
A senior police officer on Tuesday negotiated a resumption of talks between unions and management at Caterpillar, but it was not immediately clear if the bosses were free to leave.
One union representative told Reuters they could come and go as they wished, but a witness at the plant said that when one of the group tried to walk away he was harangued and forced to return to the building.
Staff at the factory in the city of Grenoble took action after management representatives failed to show up for a meeting with unions on redundancy terms that had been scheduled for Monday afternoon, Massy said.
Riot police were sent to the plant to keep order, but as in previous disputes they held back from direct intervention.
Workers at the Caterpillar site have been on strike since Monday to try to force more talks, Massy said.
"Yesterday, the whole day, the factory went on strike, including the white-collar workers, which is unusual," he said. (Reporting by Catherine Lagrange)