US tyre boss mocks ‘crazy’ French unions – FRANCE – FRANCE 24

3 hours 58 min ago – FRANCE
US tyre boss mocks ‘crazy’ French unions

French employees at Goodyear’s loss-making plant in Amiens “only work three hours” a day and are represented by “crazy” unions, the head of US tyre manufacturer Titan said on Wednesday after France approached the firm to discuss a possible takeover.

The head of US tyre manufacturer Titan International told the French government Wednesday that his firm will not take over a loss-making Goodyear factory because the unions there are “crazy” and its employees “only work three hours a day”.

“How stupid do you think we are?” Titan Chief Executive Maurice Taylor asked French Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg in a letter published by French business daily Les Echos
[in French and English].

“I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works for three hours.

A Titan commercial shows its CEO Maurice Taylor expressing his opinion of the French.“They get one hour for breaks and lunch, they talk for three and they work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

Taylor was responding to a proposition by Montebourg to see if Titan, which makes tyres for agricultural vehicles, wanted to invest in the plant in Amiens, northern France.
Titan had approached Goodyear Dunlop Tyres France in 2012 to discuss a possible takeover, but negotiations were blocked by the Communist-backed CGT union.

Montebourg’s appeal to Taylor was a last ditch attempt to woo Titan back and save the plant and its employees after Goodyear announced at the end of January that it was definitively closing the plant – which employs 1,173 workers – following a long struggle with the unions.

Poor sales at the plant resulted in a loss in 2011 of 61 million euros, according to company figures.

Rising unemployment

The decision was taken against a backdrop of plummeting demand for new cars which is threatening tens of thousands of jobs in France, where the Socialist government has vowed to stem rising unemployment and improve the competitiveness of the country’s manufacturing sector.

Taylor warned Montebourg that despite his tougher stance toward EU trade protection, the French manufacturing sector was doomed if the government did not face up to the realities of Asian competition and deal more effectively with troublesome unions.

“You are a politician so you don’t want to rock the boat,” he wrote. “The Chinese are shipping tyres into France, really all over Europe, and yet you do nothing. In five years Michelin won’t be able to produce tyres in France.

“Titan is going to buy a Chinese Tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres that France needs. You can keep your so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien [sic.] North factory.”

The CGT union had not answered FRANCE 24’s request for comment when this article was published, while Montebourg’s office said the minister had not yet responded to Taylor’s letter.

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And this is how daily Mail UK reports on it….

‘They get one hour for breaks, chat for three hours and work for three!’ US tycoon reveals why he WON’T be rescuing ‘lazy, workers who talk too much’ at doomed French tire factory

  • Chairman of US tire giant Titan International attacks work ethic in France
  • Maurice Taylor, aka ‘The Grizz’, tells French industry minister: ‘You are lazy’
  • He REFUSES to buy Goodyear tire plant which employs 1,170 people
  • Goodyear announced it was cutting its workforce in France by 39 per cent
  • Even International Monetary Fund boss has said French workers ‘lethargic’


PUBLISHED: 07:34 EST, 20 February 2013 | UPDATED: 11:28 EST, 20 February 2013

Tire tycoon Maurice Taylor has disparaged workers at a French factory‘The Grizz’: Tire tycoon Maurice Taylor said French workers were ‘lazy’ and ‘overpaid’

An American tycoon has refused to rescue a doomed tire factory in France because the workers are ‘lazy, overpaid and talk too much’.

Maurice Taylor, chairman of US tire giant Titan International and nicknamed ‘The Grizz’ because of his tough negotiating style, asked the French industry minister ‘How stupid do you think we are?’ in a blunt letter published today.

In the note to Arnaud Montebourg, Mr Taylor explained why his company would not be buying a Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, northern France that is threatening to close with the loss of 1,170 jobs.

He told Mr Montebourg: ‘I have visited the factory several times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours.

‘They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three hours and work for three. I told the French union workers this to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!

‘Your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are?’

‘Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.’

‘The French farmer wants cheap tires. He does not care if the tires come from India or China and these governments are subsidising them. Your government doesn’t care either.’

His letter also accuses the French government of ‘doing nothing’ in the face of Chinese competition.

The embarrassing assessment of French workers comes as France teeters on the brink of recession and unemployment has hit three million, the highest level of joblessness in 15 years.

'Lazy, overpaid and talk too much': Workers leaving the doomed Goodyear tyre plant in Amiens, northern France which American tycoon Maurice Taylor has refused to rescue‘Lazy’: Workers leaving the doomed Goodyear tire plant in Amiens, northern France, which Mr Taylor has refused to rescue as Goodyear announces a 39 per cent cut to their French workforce
Blunt: The Titan International boss was scathing in his assessment of the work ethic of staff at the Goodyear factory in AmiensBlunt: The Titan International boss was scathing in his assessment of the work ethic of staff at the Goodyear factory in Amiens

Goodyear said on January 31 that it would be closing its main French plant and cutting its workforce in France by 39 per cent amid labour disputes and plunging car demand in Europe.

Mr Taylor added in the letter published in Les Echoes financial newspaper today: ‘Goodyear tried for over four years to save some of the highest-paid Amiens jobs, but the French unions and the French government did nothing but talk.’

 The U.S. government is not much better than the French,’ he said, referring to a dispute over Chinese exports.

Montebourg’s office said the letter was an authentic response to Paris consulting Titan as a possible buyer of U.S. group Goodyear’s Amiens Nord factory in northern France.


The French have some of the best working conditions in the world – but its economy is flatlining. It has been beset by the combined effects of a rigid job market, complex labour laws, and fraught labour relations.

Under socialist rules introduced in 2000 workers put in 35 hours a week, down from 39 hours a week. Yet its jobless rate is at a 13-year high. More than one in ten of the workforce is unemployed.

France’s economy stalled in 2012 and growth contracted by 0.3 percent in the final quarter of 2012. If it contracts again in the first quarter of 2013, it will be back in recession — officially defined as two straight quarters of negative growth.

Public spending already accounts for almost 57% of national output, the public debt stands at over 90% of GDP and in January 2012 it lost its AAA grade from Standard & Poor’s, a rating agency.

French President Francois Hollande is desperately trying to make the country, the world’s fifth largest economy, more competitive by slashing government spending and relaxing Labour regulations. But he faces opposition from the traditionally strong union movement which resists changes to employment law.

In January the country’s powerful unions finally agreed to labour law reforms following talks that had dragged on for three months. The measures will allow for greater latitude in slashing salaries and firing staff, but will also offer more protection for employees, including better health cover.

In France, the legal length of the working week is 35 hours in all types of companies. The working day may not exceed 10 hours, and employees may not work for more than 4.5 hours without a break.The maximum working day may be extended to 12 hours under a collective agreement.

In principle, no more than 48 hours a week may be worked, 44 hours per week on average over a period of 12 consecutive weeks (up to a maximum of 46 hours, under conditions).

Workers are entitled to a break of at least 20 minutes every six hours, and all staff must be allowed a daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours – although that figure can be reduced to nine in some cases.

The minimum weekly rest period is 35 consecutive hours (11 hours plus a 24 consecutive hour rest period per week). Sundays are largely considered to be rest days in France.

The average salary in France is
€20,783, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, significantly higher than the OECD average of €16,749.

The minister refrained from an immediate reply: ‘Don’t worry, there will be a response,’ Montebourg told reporters on Wednesday after meeting Hollande. ‘It’s better written down.’

Union leaders were less cautious. CGT official Mickael Wamen said Taylor belonged more ‘in an asylum’ than the boardroom of a multinational company.

Four years ago, former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, also branded French workers as ‘lethargic’.

She told French newspapers: ‘Instead of thinking about their work, people think about their weekends, organising, planning and engineering time off.

‘If you say to a French person, “would you like to be an entrepreneur?” all they do is run scared.’

A recent global study of working hours also revealed the French worked the fewest hours of any country on earth.

The report by Swiss bank UBS found the French work for just 1,480 hours a year, with 27 days annual holiday meaning they have more free time than any other nation on the planet.

Britons work 1,782 hours a year – 301 more than the French – and have 20 days holiday a year, making us the world’s 36th most lazy nation, it was found.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co’s Amiens Nord plant employs 1,250 workers, who have been battling demands that they work more shifts or accept layoffs.

The government said in January that the site faced imminent closure.

Talks with Titan over a possible purchase of the plant’s farm tyre section fell through last September after a failure to reach a deal with the CGT union on voluntary redundancies.

Titan did not return calls on Monday evening for comment, but the company’s website says that Wall Street analysts have dubbed Taylor ‘The Grizz’ for his tough negotiating style.

Mr Taylor built Titan International from a small wheel manufacturer into an international producer of wheels and tyres.

In the tyre business for 30 years, Mr Taylor also tried his hand at politics, running as a Republican candidate for American president in 1996.

He spent a reported $6million (£3.92million) on his campaign but received only 1 per cent of the vote in all the primaries he ran in.

‘The Grizz’ has featured in various titles including Michael Lewis’s book Trail Fever, an episode of This American Life entitled ‘Rich Guys’ and featured on a skit on Saturday Night Live.

He was president and CEO of Titan International from 1990-2005, becoming chairman and CEO from then on.

According to figures compiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development workers in the United States rack up an average 1,695 hours of work per year.

Another report released by the OECD in December indicated that – in marked contrast to Mr Taylor’s assessment of their French counterparts – many workers in the U.S. choose not to use all of their holiday entitlement for fear of appearing lazy in the eyes of managers and co-workers.

It found the average worker in the U.S. takes just two weeks off each year.

Maurice Taylor wrote to Arnaud Montebourg to explain why he refused to buy a doomed Goodyear factory
Maurice Taylor said French workers are 'lazy' and refuses to rescue a doomed Goodyear factory in Amiens

‘The French way’: Mr Taylor wrote to the French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg (left) saying that French workers are ‘lazy’. He said he visited the factory in Amiens (right) several times where the ‘workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours’

Former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, said French workers were 'lethargic' and scared of becoming entrepreneurs‘They all run scared’: Former French finance minister Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, said French workers were ‘lethargic’ and scared of becoming entrepreneurs

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