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French officials sent a mediator on Saturday to soothe tensions at a tire factory where workers were holding two executives over parent company Michelin's plans to shut the plant.
Union members and other workers have barred the personnel director and its labor relations director from leaving the premises of the Kleber tire plant, in the northwest city of Toul, since Thursday.
The regional administration said it assigned the regional labor director, Serge Leroy, to encourage dialogue between the parties. Leroy met with labor representatives Saturday morning, said Pierre Kovalski of the CGT union.
The factory is to close gradually from May of this year through May 2009, cutting 826 jobs. Workers are seeking greater severance packages than those on offer.
Tensions mounted further on Friday after Michelin announced that its net profit rose 35 per cent in 2007. Workers were upset that the plant is being shut despite the company's impressive earnings.
Michelin, Europe's biggest tire maker by revenue, warned of rising rubber and oil costs this year, but said it still expects sales and operating profit to rise. The factory closure is part of a larger "competitiveness plan" in France and Spain designed to increase productivity. (AP)
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