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Peugeot Workers Shut Down Plant Slated To Be Sold

By SARAH DiLORENZO

PARIS (AP) â¿¿ Hundreds of Peugeot Citroen workers occupied a French factory scheduled to be sold off, largely shutting down production on Wednesday in a protest against planned layoffs at the struggling automaker.

The Aulnay plant near Paris has been at the center of a battle over the future of France's largest automaker. The company announced last year that it planned to cut 8,000 jobs and close Aulnay as it struggles to compete in Europe's stagnant car market. The company reported a ⿬819 million ($990 million) loss in the first half of 2012; it will announce its full-year results next month.

On Wednesday, the CGT union said 300 workers stopped all production at the plant. The company, meanwhile, said around 230 were on strike â¿¿ with many more absent â¿¿ and that very little work was being done.

That's a small percentage of the 3,000 people employed at Aulnay, but the union said they were able to "paralyze" the factory because most of the striking employees work in production.

Anne-Laure Descleves, a spokeswoman for Peugeot, said the unions stage a strike once a month and the current one was only slightly worse than others.

The standoff at Aulnay comes at an unfortunate time for the government, which is trying to bask in the signing of a deal between unions and the country's business lobbies to reform the labor market. The deal â¿¿ inked Friday but notably not signed by the CGT and another union â¿¿ will make it easier for companies to reduce workers' hours in times of difficulty and promises to shorten the time employees have to challenge layoffs.

The government has called the agreement historic and hopes it will help drive down France's unemployment rate, which is over 10 percent. It also hopes the agreement will open a new era in relations between unions and management. But Wednesday's action by the CGT, one of the country's most radical unions, calls into question whether labor relations will be able to evolve from their current antagonism to more cooperation.

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