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US magnate in U-turn offer for 'lazy' French tyre plant

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-10-23

A US tyre boss who had previously called employees at a French Goodyear factory "so-called workers" and criticised their unions as "crazy" has made a fresh offer to take over the doomed plant in northern France.

A US tyre magnate who infuriated the French by saying workers at a doomed Goodyear factory were lazy and “only work three hours a day” has backtracked and made an offer to buy part of the plant, France’s Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Tuesday.

Titan International CEO Maurice Taylor, who was approached in 2012 to negotiate a takeover of a Goodyear factory in Amiens, northern France, wrote a mocking letter to Montebourg in February, calling the plant’s Communist-backed unions “crazy” and saying he would not proceed with a buy-out .

“How stupid do you think we are?” Taylor asked 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 work 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!

“You can keep the so-called workers."

Montebourg responded in a prickly letter of his own, calling Taylor’s views “extremist” and “insulting”.

More negotiations with unions

On Tuesday, it seemed Taylor had changed his mind.

“I have met Maurice Taylor, who had had very unpleasant comments about France. He is offering to save 333 jobs out of 1,200,” Montebourg told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

“He guarantees that jobs will be preserved for four years,” he said.

The offer has not yet been presented formally to the unions – who have previously insisted that the entire plant should be saved – and will be discussed with them on Wednesday at the ministry, Montebourg said.

Despite having per capita productivity levels that rank among the best in Europe, France’s rigid hiring and firing laws are seen by many economists as the cause of a long industrial decline that has dented French exports.

Some also say the country’s 35-hour work week is the reason the country’s manufacturing sector lags behind that of Germany.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-10-22

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