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Exploited, Fired, Now Expelled? Immigrant Workers Occupy Paris Buffalo Grill

Posted to the IUF website 02-Jul-2007

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Poorly paid and routinely pressured to perform un- or inadequately-compensated overtime, irregular migrants employed at the French-based fast food chain Buffalo Grill are fighting back after being denounced to the authorities and fired or pressured to quit their jobs. The migrants, mostly of African origin, many with years of employment at the chain, face expulsion from the France of Nicolas Sarkozy to their country of origin.

Last year, a popular immigrant Buffalo Grill worker announced his candidacy for workplace representation elections. in February 2007, his irregular employment status was "anonymously" denounced to the police, who proceeded to control the employment papers' of the chain's more than 600 foreign workers. Four were fired and others pressured to resign. A group of undocumented workers, supported by the Commerce, Distribution and Services Federation of the CGT (FCDS-CGT), is fighting back by occupying the Buffalo Grill in Viry-Chatillon, in the South of Paris. The police have not yet moved to enforce a court order to evacuate the premises and the occupation continues.

Buffalo Grill, based in France, operates close to 300 restaurants in France, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, employing over 6,000 workers. Two top executives of the chain were investigated on manslaughter charges in 2003 following revelations that the company had violated the French ban on importing British beef during the mad cow disease embargo of 1996-2000. Management's initial claim to have been the victim of fraudulent practices by immigrants seeking employment with false papers has been punctured by revelations in the French press that workers fired from one Buffalo Grill location were knowingly rehired in others.

Since 2005, Buffalo Griill has been owned by the US property investment fund Colony Capital, owners of the Fairmont/Raffles and Kerzner hotel and resort chains. Colony Capital has also taken a significant stake in the Accor hotel and services group.

The French case recalls that of the 5 Salvadoran workers fired by management of a US Marriott hotel in 2001 for attempting to organize a union. In that case, the National Labor Relations Board eventually determined that the workers were sacked illegally. Marriott was compelled to pay compensation and to post a notice in the hotel informing workers of their right to union representation.

The FCDS-CGT is demanding the reinstatement of all Buffalo Grill workers fired or forced to resign, along with regularization of their employment status and an end to all legal and police measures. You can support their struggle by sending a message (in English and French) in support of these demands to Buffalo Grill and Colony Capital management.

Click here to send a message. Copies of your message will automatically be sent to the union and to the secretariat.