PARIS -- Workers at a small French supplier facing liquidation have destroyed machinery and say they have rigged gas tanks to explode in an effort to put pressure on customers, including Renault and PSA Group, to commit to enough orders to keep the plant open.
The factory, GM&S, in La Souterraine in central France, makes parts such as brackets and bumper supports. A judge placed the factory in receivership in December, and an order to liquidate could come as soon as May 23.
Negotiations on the closure broke down on Wednesday. On Thursday morning, images on French television and social media showed workers using a welding torch to cut a press in two. Later in the day they destroyed another piece of machinery with a front-end loader.
French television showed images of gas canisters with tape and wires dangling from tanks of chemicals at the plant. The standoff was continuing on Friday afternoon.
The workers’ anger at the potential loss of their jobs underscores the difficulty that president elect Emmanuel Macron will face in trying to liberalize French work rules to make it easier for employers to hire and fire.
"We did not want to arrive at this point, but we have no choice,” a CGT union delegate, Vincent Labrousse, told French media. “The average age of workers is 49, what are we going to do? We have families."
He said the union was open to discussions about the plant’s future.
The company’s website said it had opened in 1963, and listed numerous clients for sheet-metal products.
Labrousse said the union had made a personal appeal to Macron to save the jobs of the plant’s 279 workers, and was seeking a meeting with Macron and representatives from Renault and PSA.
Renault and PSA said they had done their part to keep the plant in business.
"We have always been at the side of La Souterraine, and we are are the only client to have maintained our level of business, while other clients have abandoned GM&S,” PSA said.
A statement from Renault said the company “had maintained its orders” with GM&S and had been supporting the plant through the purchase of raw materials.