On my first morning back to work after the Christmas and the New Year break I had 3 thoughts on my journey into the office. Firstly it is still dark outside, secondly it’s still raining and the final and probably the most important what was I going to achieve on the first day / week to kick start a successful 2014 like many workers going back to their usual routine.

As I work my through 250+ accumulated emails, I noticed an article on tyre manufacture Goodyear about one their factories in France. Two of their of top executives including their HR Director had been held hostage by the CGT union supporting the 1170 employees whose jobs are currently under threat due to closure.

The battle lines have been drawn during this long standing dispute. On one side you have a publicly listed international organisation with HR at the forefront, versus the Union within the factory. With neither side wanting to back down, something had to give. In normal circumstances, as a last resort, it would be settled in the court room but not in this case. Taking hostages seemed the better solution.

Looking back at other flashpoints in France, Goodyear isn’t the first company to suffer the same fate; the list includes Sony and Caterpillar and all within the last 4 years. They have actually named this action “bossnappings” and in the previous cases criminal charges were not brought against the kidnappers. Theoretically, perpetrators of “bossnappings” in France risk up to five years in jail and €75,000 fines. If the captivity lasts longer than a week, the maximum prison term goes up to 20 years, or 30 years if the offence is aggravated by violence. But in the case of industrial action, the French courts have been reluctant to come down hard on angry workers.

Looking at the bigger picture, France is a developed country – a primary member of the European Union and has the infrastructure and wealth many 3rd world countries would crave. So why would a Union decide to take such drastic action to commit a criminal offence and take to people hostage to meet their demands?

Their demand was very simple: “If there is no buyer, (we want) a plan for voluntary redundancies for everyone with loads of money”. Many people have either been affected or know someone who has been affected by the economic difficulties have the past 5 years. But how many have resorted to kidnapping and committing a form of bribery to get what they want? Of course the union wanted to get the best possible deal for their members but perhaps the term “drastic times call for drastic measures” has been taken far too literally and ultimately will only set back further negotiations.

Ian is a Consultant in London and kidnapping the boss is certainly not on his list of objectives for the first weeks of 2014.