Titan CEO Slams French Productivity, Tells France to Keep its “So-Called Workers”

By: EW News Desk Team   Date: 20 February 2013

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20 February 2013

The head of U.S. tyremaker Titan International has launched a brutal attack on productivity in France, telling the government to keep its “so-called workers” who command a high pay despite working “only three hours” a day.

In a letter published in Wednesday’s edition of Les Echos, a French financial newspaper, Maurice Taylor, chairman and chief executive of Titan International, told French Industrial Renewal minister Arnaud Montebourg that France can keep its “so-called workers” who earn a high pay despite working “only three hours” each day. 

Taylor’s letter, dated February 8, was in response to an approach by Montebourg to see if Titan, which makes agricultural tyres, was willing to take over any of the operations at a Goodyear factory in the town of Amiens that is set for closure. 

Spelling out why his company walked away, Taylor said:

I have visited the factory several times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour breaks for lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told the French union workers about this to their faces but they told me that’s the French way!

According to Taylor, Goodyear had tried for over four years to save part of the 1,173 Amiens jobs that are some of the highest paid, but the French government and trade unions “did nothing but talk.”

Goodyear announced on Jan. 31 it will close its main French plant and cut its workforce in the country by 39 percent amid labour disputes and falling auto demand in Europe. 

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Taylor also warned that Chinese factories were already shipping tyres in France and across Europe, threatening companies like France’s Michelin. “In five years Michelin won’t be able to produce tyres in France. France will lose its industrial business because of its government.”

He added: 

The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He does not care if these tyres are from China or India and these governments are subsidising them. 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 Frances needs. You can keep the so-called workers.

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

Taylor’s letter is expected to relaunch a national debate over France’s declining competitiveness, hindered in recent months by the high tax policies of Francois Hollande’s socialist government.

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Last year, French industrialist Louis Gallois warned that the economy is facing a serious “crisis of confidence” and called for a “competitive shock therapy” to stem the industrial decline that has eroded the global competitiveness of French companies. 

In its last annual review of the French economy, the IMF pointed out that France’s productivity woes predates the region’s crisis and warned that its risks to growth could be even more severe if reforms are not introduced in time. 

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