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US tyre boss mocks ‘crazy’ French unions

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-02-20

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.

“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 of 61 million euros in 2011, 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. Later on Wednesday, Montebourg responded, accusing Taylor of being “extremist" and "insulting".

Date created : 2013-02-20

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