US tyremaker treads on French sensibilities with attack on workers

A US businessman and failed Republican presidential candidate has caused an international row by blasting the French work ethic.

Maurice Taylor, of tyre-maker Titan International, wrote a no-holds-barred letter to the French industrial renewal minister Arnaud Montebourg. Mr Taylor, nicknamed “The Grizz”, was explaining why his firm would never buy part of an ailing Goodyear factory in Amiens.

“I have visited the factory a couple of times,” the letter dated February 8 reads, according to a copy published yesterday in Les Echos newspaper. “The French workforce gets paid high wages but only work for three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”

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The industrial renewal ministry had approached Titan to start discussions on buying up part of the Goodyear factory.

Mr Taylor’s response was blunt: “How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tyres What does the crazy union have? It has the French government.”

The letter also refers to French employees as “so-called workers” and has prompted an outcry.

Mr Montebourg tells Mr Taylor: “Your words, as extremist as they are insulting, show a perfect ignorance of our country. Can I remind you that Titan, the company you head is 20 times smaller than Michelin, the French technology leader with a global reach, and 35 times more profitable?”

Figures from the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development show that France is riding high in the top ten of the most productive European countries.