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Appeal court upholds ruling in favour of Myriam Haar

~Complaint filed with European court pending~

MARIGOT--An appeal court judge in Guadeloupe recently upheld the October 23, 2008 guilty verdict against two UGTG union members in the so-called Club Orient Resort hostage case of April 21, 2006 where the General Manager's secretary at the time, Myriam Haar, was assaulted and held against her will in a dispute over the intended firing of an assistant manager.

The appeal ruling was handed down on November 9 but Haar only received written confirmation of it from her lawyer, Maître Paris, last Friday, November 26.

Haar indicated her landmark victory should set a precedent by helping to curb the power of the unions in the future, changing the way they operate and in particular with regard to liberties a union feels it can take against ordinary citizens.

One union member received a 15-day suspended prison sentence and the other a one-month suspended prison sentence. The court also sentenced the pair to pay some 6,000 euros in legal fees and damages. They appealed the verdict but were not in court on October 5 to hear the judge's decision, nor were they represented by a lawyer.

"What was important to me was that the ruling was a prison sentence, more important than the money that I will receive in damages," Haar told The Daily Herald. "Also we now have a court ruling that forbids this kind of action and attitude. Before, it was taken for granted that that was what unions did, even in France. But I have never accepted that anybody would keep me against my will anywhere, not even for two seconds, and that counts for any human being. There are other ways to resolve conflicts."

Haar added the ruling, which many people on the French side have been waiting to hear, is especially significant because company managers, hotel managers, the hospitality industry in general now have a solid legal basis from which to say "you cannot go beyond this point and if the line is crossed you face the consequences."

"In France unions have always been given much too much leeway. Can you imagine if the director of Peugeot was taken hostage in the middle of Paris? What era are we living in? I think people are entitled to have labour unions and to strike if they feel strongly enough but there is a way to do it in a civilised way. Nowadays in Europe unions are regarded more as partners. Grievances are discussed without resorting to physical assaults."

She noted a complaint on the matter has also been filed against France with the European Court of Human Rights for allowing the situation to get this far.

"Before they look at our case they will want to know how the local court has ruled. Now we can send them the ruling and see if it will be accepted."

The ordeal in 2006 caused Haar to lose her job and her memory, and she spent some three years in therapy.

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