French Workers Strip to Try to Save Their Jobs

By: Rachel Kurowski - AP Writer
By: Rachel Kurowski - AP Writer

Workers at a struggling heater factory in northwest France are taking it all off in a bid to save their jobs: They posed nude for a calendar to call attention to their plight.

Mr. February is wearing nothing but a cardboard box. Mr. October is posed like the famed Rodin sculpture "The Thinker." Mr. April is naked but for a flag bearing the company's logo, flowing in front of his lower body.

Their protest is the latest, and barest, effort by French workers to fight back at the economic downturn. Employees have locked up their bosses, threatened to blow up factories and blocked oil supplies in scattered incidents around France in recent months.

After receiving the news in June that they might be laid off, the workers at the Chaffoteaux factory took a creative approach to show their displeasure. The company, which makes gas and water heating equipment, is facing declining demand amid a slump in real estate sales and a shift in French households away from gas heaters.

Fifteen men who work at the factory in Ploufragan, 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Paris, posed for the calendar. Five thousand copies were printed, and 2,000 had been sold at euro7 each as of Monday, three days after they were made available.

Brigitte Coadic, the representative from the CGT labor union that organized the calendar, said the workers want to attract public attention to the layoffs in the hope that will help them in negotiations with the management.

"In contrast to classic responses to layoffs ... we aren't going to just accept fate," she said. The workers did not appear to be offering any solid solutions to the company's declining sales.

Requests for the calendars have come in from cities across France, said Coadic.

A Chaffoteaux spokeswoman said 207 of the factory's 251 employees may be laid off, but said that depends on further negotiations. A meeting between the management of Chaffoteaux and factory representatives is scheduled for Sept. 28, said the spokeswoman, who was not authorized to be publicly named because of company policy.

She would not comment on the calendar.

Ludovic L'Hostellier, 32, is "Mr. February." His nude pose is in a big box whose lid is closing on him. The box is labeled Chaffoteaux.

"It represents the company closing, just like the box I'm in," he explained by phone.

He said his wife was pleased with the photos and "we have had only good reactions" to the calendar." He said if he does lose his job at the end of the year, he will look for another immediately. "We can't live without working," he said.

Chaffoteaux is a branch of Italy-based Ariston Thermo Group.


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