Paris: Migrant workers occupy Buffalo Grill

Undocumented workers at the fast food chain in Paris have occupied the Buffalo Grill in Viry-Chatillon after being sacked and reported to the authorities.

Submitted by Mike Harman on July 2, 2007

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" reported to the police, who proceeded to inspect 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.

Update 11 July 2007
Workers win Buffalo Grill occupation