France: National rally called to back workers who have occupied and booby-trapped factory

CGT union delegates have called for a national rally in support of workers at GM&S who have occupied their workplace and threatened to blow it up rather than let the site be shut down.

The workers, who occupied the car component factory in the Creuse region, north of Limoges on Thursday night, have already destroyed some equipment and used gas and petrol canisters to booby-trap the building, which they say they will blow up if the firm is liquidated.

They have also stated they will be destroying one piece of machinery every day for as long as the occupation continues.

Up to 1,000 jobs are directly or indirectly reliant on the plant, 279 of which are in the factory itself. Bosses at Peugeot and Renault have been accused of blocking negotiations for a takeover of the factory and of making too few orders since it went into receivership in December last year. Staff estimate around €40m of orders is needed to keep the plant running, but the two firms have made only €16m-worth.

A CGT rep at the plant said:

We refuse to be given the runaround a minute longer. We’ve been fighting this for six months, and we’re sorry things have reached this point, but if nothing is done we will not leave the building intact.

The union will launch a national appeal at a rally on Tuesday May 16th in front of the factory to support the occupiers. Site delegate Vincent Labrousse said:

We don’t have a choice: our average age is 49, what else will we do? Our goal is not to destroy to destroy. What we have done to machines is what is likely to happen to our lives and our families

We are in the process of setting up a call, supported by the inter-union (CGT-FO) at the GM&S site, to hold a large gathering on the site of La Souterraine on Tuesday at 3pm and then a rally with The population in front of the town hall, the same day at 5pm.

Souterraine Deputy Mayor Etienne Lejeune also weighed in today, calling on newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron to intervene and push for a successful deal to sell the site to stamping subcontractor GMD. The firm has tried to buy the plant several times but has been repeatedly rebuffed, leading to the announcement that the site could be close on May 23rd and sparking the occupation.

The law around occupations in France is significantly less punitive than in Britain. In an interview with French paper Le Figaro, top lawyer Stéphane Béal said it was unlikely, unless the site was actively blown up, that strikers would face serious collective punishments, though individuals might be targeted if they could be linked to specific incidents.

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