Workers at a GM&S auto supplies plant in the department of Creuse, central France, are holding a factory hostage and letting the bosses at Renault and Peugeot know that if they move forward with a mass sacking, they can kiss the factory goodbye.
“We refuse to be taken for a ride anymore," union rep Vincent Labrousse told AFP.
"We have been fighting for six months and we are sorry to get to this point but at the moment there is a threat of liquidation and if that happens then the factory will not be returned in one piece," he said.
The livelihoods of 280 employees are on the line at the factory, which went into receivership in December.
The workers are adopting the straightforward, hardball tactics after Renault and Peugeot management refused to engage in negotiations for the site takeover and failed to place orders at the plant.
"We didn't want it to get here, but we don’t have a choice – our average age is 49, what else will we do?” General Confederation of Labor delegate Vincent Labrousse told Le Parisien. “Since they want to liquidate us, we are not going to leave the factory as it is. It’s sad to say, but here we are.”
In addition to already destroying equipment at the factory and promising to scrap a machine each day until their demands are met – with each machine costing several thousand euros – the workers have unanimously agreed to booby-trap the plant.
Twitter images showed gas cans attached to a huge tank of liquid oxygen with the words "we are going to blow everything up," in French, scrawled on the site of the giant tank.
The workers are now demanding that French President-elect Emmanuel Macron intervene to settle the case.
French workers are no strangers to radical tactics, as labor movement analysts have observed over the years.
In 2000, angry workers threatened to blow up the Cellatex plant in the Ardennes over severance pay. In 2001, sacked workers at the Moulinex works in Normandy made similar threats.
In 2009, workers at the New Fabris parts factory in Vienne also took over their workspace and won their demands for layoff compensation, receiving US$42,000 in severance.
In 2014, workers at a Goodyear tire factory took executives hostage, demanding “enormous amounts of money” after a U.S. businessman called them lazy and had given notice of layoffs. During a planned meeting with union representatives, the managers were locked in a meeting room and the door was blocked with a large tractor tire.
And in September 2015, striking French ferry workers trashed their vessels before they were sold to Eurotunnel. Every single seat was slashed with a box knife. The ships were stripped of fridges, televisions and equipment.