The Caterpillar executives, jeered by union members, were escorted from the plant by police and union security, after being detained for more than 24 hours, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
The standoff ended after President Nicolas Sarkozy said in an interview with Europe 1 radio Wednesday that he would “save the site,” and that he would meet with union members. “We won’t abandon them,” he said.
On Tuesday, striking workers at the plant detained five managers in a dispute over benefits to departing employees. They later let one manager go out of concern for his health.
A Caterpillar spokesman, Jim Dugan, said Wednesday that no one had been hurt.
“At a time when the company is making a profit and distributing dividends to shareholders,” Pierre Piccarreta, a representative from the C.G.T. union, on Tuesday told The Associated Press, “we want to find a favorable outcome for all the workers and know as quickly as possible where we are going.”
A member of the worker’s council reached by telephone through a union contact said “the employees just want a fair deal.” He refused to identify himself.
Chris Schena, a Caterpillar executive, said Tuesday in a statement that the company “is hoping this matter can be resolved quickly,” and that Caterpillar’s the “utmost priority is to find a solution that guarantees the sustainability of our presence in Grenoble.”
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Ill., in January and February announced 22,000 job cuts worldwide. It is seeking to lay off 733 workers — about a quarter of the work force — at its factories in Grenoble and Échirolles. Combined with those already laid off and those whose short-term contracts will not be renewed, a total of about 1,000 workers at the French factories are losing their jobs.
Caterpillar France has said the job cuts were necessary because its order book had been cut in half.
In another show of worker anger on Tuesday, François-Henri Pinault, the chief executive of PPR, had to be rescued by riot police in Paris after workers protesting job cuts at his FNAC and Conforama units surrounded his car and blocked the road with garbage cans to keep him from escaping.
Workers at a 3M plant in the plant in Pithiviers, in central France, held their boss last week for more than 24 hours in a labor dispute. Workers at a Sony plant in Pontonx-sur-l’Adour, in southwest France, held their boss overnight to gain better severance packages.
France, with a long history of labor militancy, has becoming increasingly restless as the impact of the global economic crisis deepens. The French unemployment rate rose to 8.6 percent in February from 8.5 in January, according to the European Union.Demonstrations in recent months have drawn millions of protesters to the streets to challenge Mr. Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis. Opponents of Mr. Sarkozy’s government say he has focused on bailouts for banks and industrial companies while ignoring the fate of workers.