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French court faults Goodyear over factory closure
[AMIENS, France] US tyre giant Goodyear has been found by a French court to have unfairly dismissed more than 800 employees at a factory it closed in 2014 that had become a symbol of the anger of workers at multinational firms as the country's industrial heartland erodes.
The labour court in the northern city of Amiens ruled that Goodyear fired 832 employees without a valid economic motive, a decision their lawyer Fiodor Rilov called an "enormous victory".
No information on the amount of damages awarded the employees was immediately available.
The company said it was evaluating its options to appeal the ruling.
French labour law requires that firms be losing money in order to lay off workers, and the lawyer for the employees made much of the fact in court that Goodyear had "record profits" and rising sales, citing a company filing to US market regulators at the time reporting net profits of US$2.5 billion.
While the 1,143 employees at the factory in the northern city of Amiens received severance packages, Mr Rilov sought payments representing two to four years' salary for each of the 832 workers claiming unfair dismissal.
Unions had fiercely resisted management's restructuring plans and the closure, and after the shutdown of the factory was announced, workers held two executives hostage for 30 hours in protest, in a case of so-called "bossnapping".
The conflict made international headlines in 2013 when the CEO of a potential US buyer for the site ended talks and mocked French workers.
"They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three," Maurice Taylor of Titan International wrote to the French government.
"How stupid do you think we are?" he said.
A former union delegate at the factory said she was happy with the ruling even though it wouldn't mean jobs for those who still haven't found work.
"But it is a victory that restores our dignity against a multinational that scorned and humiliated us," said Evelyne Becker, a former CGT representative.