A French judge has ordered Nestle to re-open a loss-making factory, delighting France's anti-globalisation radicals but setting a precedent that could scare away foreign investment.
The Swiss food giant has been told to re-launch production at the chocolate and Nescafe plant outside Marseilles, employing 427 workers.
It was closed in June after nine years of mounting problems. Capacity usage had fallen to 30pc, chiefly due to falling demand for a strain of decaf coffee produced at the site.
The profitable bits have since been switched to plants in Italy, Spain and northern France.
Nestle called the ruling "unbelievable and unprecedented", claiming that it abridged its basic freedom to manage its operations.
"This plant has no chance of ever making money in the long-term. We offered all workers jobs within the group in other parts of France, or early retirement for those over 55," said François-Xavier Pellourd, the company spokesman.
The judge said Nestle had breached France's strict code on plant closures and questioned whether the move was justified on commercial grounds.
Nestle said it would obey the court but denied breaking French law. "We have fully complied at every step of the way, even though it is an extremely long and complex process. We've asked the court to specify what the ruling means because we don't understand what we are supposed to have done wrong."
The French CGT union has accused the firm of a de facto "lock-out" to clear the way to shift production to cheaper facilities abroad.
"Nowadays, it is prohibited to close factories in a savage fashion," said Elise Brand, the union's lawyer.
"Nestle claims that it is doing this because it has lost contracts. But it has not lost these contracts. The orders will be filled from its factories in Russia, Spain, or Portugal."
Perhaps a 20-hour work week will solve their problems?
Hugo Chavez is doing the same thing in Venezuela. He wants to seize idle factories from private owners and have them produce.......SOMETHING (to be determined later, but you can bet it's nothing the market wants) and have the government pay the cost of production.
What a freaking moron. It'd probably be cheaper just to give the x number of workers he wants to employ the wage they'd receive and then just tell them to go sit in a field than go through with this cockamamie, wasteful plan.
Venezuela to seize 'idle' firms
By Iain Bruce
BBC News in Caracas
The Venezuelan government has warned it will confiscate hundreds of private companies that are lying idle if they fail to re-open.
President Hugo Chavez said the firms' workers would be given help to set up co-operatives and re-start production for the benefit of the community.
He said the move was needed to fight poverty and end Venezuela's dependence on "the perverse model of capitalism".
Some business leaders fear it may lead to a wider attack on private property.
Speaking on his weekly television programme, Mr Chavez said the measures were necessary.
Either capitalism, which is the road to hell, or socialism, for those who want to build the kingdom of God here on Earth
President Hugo Chavez
"It's against our constitution," he said. "Just as we cannot permit good land to lie uncultivated, so we cannot allow perfectly productive factories to stay closed."
The Venezuelan leader said that more than 700 companies in the country were idle.
Of these, 136 were being examined for possible expropriation and a small number were already in the process of being taken over, he said.
The president's TV show was broadcast from a cocoa-processing plant in eastern Venezuela, which is re-opening as a workers' co-operative after shutting down nine years ago.
But Mr Chavez did hold out an olive branch to employers.
He said more than 1,000 firms in Venezuela had partially closed down simply because of economic difficulties.
"We want to work with you to help restore your production," he told company owners.
Venezuelan business leaders have expressed concern that government policies on land reform and co-management in industry could signal the beginning of a wider attack on private property.
Earlier on Sunday, Venezuela's most senior Roman Catholic Cardinal, Rosalio Castillo, accused the president of acquiring dictatorial powers.
But in his broadcast, Mr Chavez again insisted that Venezuelans have a clear choice.
"Either capitalism, which is the road to hell, or socialism, for those who want to build the kingdom of God here on Earth," he said.
N e s t l e s, Nestle makes the very best, chocolate...
And they make pretty good buses too.
Anyone remember that commercial and jingle?
Oh yea, FUCK FRANCE!!
Yep, sounds like a "savage fashion" to me...
I say the next time the Germans invade we let them keep it