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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Lyn Parry

On a strip of cardboard attached to the gates of the Martell distillery in Cognac a message reads, Martell, fonde en 1715, fondue en 2003' (Martell, founded in 1715, dissolved in 2003'). For 16 days, three Martell employees, Guy Faucher, Pascal Renaud and Grard Faure, had been on hunger strike. Installed in a caravan in front of the distillery entrance, the workers have been protesting against Pernod Ricard's restructuring plans, which involve shedding 149 jobs over two years. The Mayor of Cognac has attempted to persuade the parties to renegotiate, but his efforts have failed. On the eighth day of the hunger strike, just two days before one of the strikers was hospitalised, Lionel Breton, prsident directeur gnral of Martell, declared that the project had been reviewed and approved by the authorities and would go ahead. The trade unions made an application to the Angoulme Court to stop the restructuring, but the hunger strike abruptly broke up after the workers heard that the judge had dismissed the case against Martell. A union spokesman said: At the beginning of May the first lay-offs will take place. We can't just lie down and let it happen.'