French presidential candidate, the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron was heckled by factory workers in Amiens, his hometown, following a visit by his far-right rival, Marine Le Pen.
The Whirlpool factory in northern France, which manufactures tumble-dryers is set to close by June 2018.
Angry about the relocation of their factory to Poland, the workers greeted Macron with whistles and burning tyres on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day Le Pen, who remains the favorite among the working classes, was welcomed with hugs and asked for selfies.
Amiens has one of the highest unemployment rates in France, at 11.9 percent.
“Emmanuel Macron is with the oligarchs, with the employers,” Le Pen said. “I am where I should be, with the employees of Whirlpool who are fighting this uncontrolled globalisation, this shameful economic model – not eating petits-fours with a few representatives who only represent themselves.”
The far-right leader added that she “solemnly pledged” to save the factory if she won.
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However, after Macron’s 45-minute exchange with the factory workers, some of the initial tension lifted.
He accused Le Pen of exploiting the unfortunate economic situation “for political ends” and misleading people by promising to halt the factory’s relocation.
“I’m not sure he [Macron] can truly help us,” said one worker. “But he tried. He was quiet and honest.”
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Macron refused to promise to prevent the factory’s closure, but said he would work to guarantee fair redundancy plans.
His decision to engage directly with Le Pen supporters could have backfired but speaking to disgruntled far-right voters proved to be a relatively successful strategy.
The presidential candidate even shook hands with several workers as he left.
Polls indicate that Macron will win about 60 percent of the vote in the run-off on 7 May.
“Macron is fighting back,” said Laurent Joffrn, the editor of the left-leaning daily Libération. “By rolling up his shirt sleeves at Whirlpool, abused by furious or desperate employees who nonetheless appreciated speaking to him, he has corrected his mistake of Sunday evening.”
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