A head of steam appears to be building in France surrounding Renault’s three sacked executives in its supposed industrial espionage case, with the unions now adding to the increasing volume.

With Renault confirming to just-auto comments made by chief operating officer Patrick Pelata that the automaker could take back all three employees if “doubts were lifted,” the mood at the manufacturer seems to have shifted substantially.

The unions’ exit from what seemed like a self-imposed period of omerta, has seen Renault’s CFE-CGC storm into the fray demanding compensation for “moral damages” and the executives’ reinstatement.

Even if offered their previous positions back, there seems to be little appetite on the part of at least one of the fired three to return.

Speaking to just-auto the CFDT union cast doubt on whether the executive – it declined to name him – for whom it acted – would want to go back to Renault – and possibly who could blame him?

What has been remarkable in this case has been the steadfastness of all three in protesting their innocence day after day – and that’s not just perhaps as their lawyers eye some considerable fees as a result.

Contrast the strident denials by the sacked Michel Balthazard, Mathieu Tenenbaum and Bertrand Rochette with the initial insistence and then gradual tweak of nuance by Renault.

It appears new ‘elements’ have come to light in this ever-changing tale that may be persuading Renault to adjust its position.

And in an interview given to French daily Le Figaro, Pelata notes that decisions would be taken at the highest level, including of course by CEO Carlos Ghosn, who seems content to let his deputy appear full square in the media headlights.

Cue the entrance of various politicians of course, most notable among them French Industry Minister Eric Besson, who even mooted the possibility of Pelata’s resignation on radio station RTL.

This is the same Besson who raised the spectre of ‘economic war’ in January, although he is now emphasising industrial concerns.

“My preoccupation is human on the one hand and industrial on the other,” he said on French radio station RTL. “It is not to contribute to the destabilisation of Renault. The director general [Pelata] says in quotation marks ‘I will offer my head, I will take the conclusions for myself if I am mistaken’ – that is already good.”

Lawyers for the three will be sharpening their quills as the tempest continues to blow, while with every day that passes, the fired three’s case seems to grow stronger.