The CEO of an American tire maker has launched a brutal attack in writing on productivity in France, telling the government that some French workers put in only “three hours” a day and that his company would be “stupid” to take over a troubled factory in the country.
In a letter published in Wednesday’s edition of French daily Les Echos, Titan International Inc. (NYSE:TWI) Chairman Maurice Taylor told French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg he had no interest in rescuing a tire plant that Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (Nasdaq:GT), the largest U.S. tire maker, is closing in France.
Taylor said in the letter dated Feb. 8: “I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but work only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”
Goodyear said last month it was set to close the plant, which employs 1,173 workers, following five years of failed talks with unions.
Taylor said Titan had a long history of buying and turning around troubled factories but in this case was not in any way interested. “Sir, 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,” Taylor wrote.
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"Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs," Taylor said. "You can keep the so-called workers."
The communist-backed CGT union hit back on Wednesday, saying the “insulting” letter showed that Taylor was more of a “lunatic” than a person suitable “to hold the reins of a multinational,” according to the Financial Times.
The CGT last year opposed a possible Titan takeover and Montebourg had hoped Titan would reconsider.
Mickaël Wamen, a CGT official, said Taylor’s letter justified the union’s opposition to Titan. “He says that the union is crazy, the government is sh-- and that [President Barack] Obama is a joke and he is going to produce in China . . . What he’s said today is not the way to break into [the European market].”
Here's the whole letter (via FTAlphaville's tumblr)
Dear Mr. Montebourg:
I have just returned to the United States from Australia where I have been for the past few weeks on business; therefore, my apologies for answering your letter dated 31 January 2013.
I appreciate your thinking that your Ministry is protecting industrial activities and jobs in France. I and Titan have a 40-year history of buying closed factories and companies, losing millions of dollars and turning them around to create a good business, paying good wages. Goodyear tried for over four years to save part of the Amiens jobs that are some of the highest paid, but the French unions and French government did nothing but talk.
I have visited the factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only 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!
The Chinese are shipping tires into France - really all over Europe - and yet you do nothing. In five years, Michelin won’t be able to produce tire in France. France will lose its industrial business because government is more government.
Sir, your letter states you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with money and talent to produce tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tire. He does not care if the tires are from China or India and governments are subsidizing them. Your government doesn’t care either. “We’re French!”
The US government is not much better than the French. Titan had to pay millions to Washington lawyers to sue the Chinese tire companies because of their subsidizing. Titan won. The government collects the duties. We don’t get the duties, the government does.
Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour and ship all the tires France needs. You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amien North factory.
Maurice M. Taylor, Jr.
Chairman and CEO