US tyre boss angers France with productivity jibes

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US tyre boss angers France with productivity jibes

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Attempts by the French government to get US tyre maker Titan International to take over a Goodyear plant in northern France have backfired dramatically with Titan’s boss Maurice Taylor unleashing a tirade against the country’s working practises.

After visiting the Goodyear factory, Taylor wrote to the French industry minister saying he had no interest in rescuing it.

However he raised hackles in France by putting it rather more bluntly than that. In his letter Taylor said he would have to be stupid to take over a factory where staff get high wages but only put in three hours work a day, adding “You can keep your so-called workers”.

There was a predictable response; union representative Mickael Wamen saying: “When Taylor says people at Goodyear earn a fortune, you know, working shifts, including overnights, slaving away to earn around 1,500 euros per month, I don’t think that’s a fortune.”

Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg refused comment saying he did not want to “harm the interests of France.”

Goodyear has said it will close the loss-making Amiens Nord factory as workers have rejected increasing productivity or layoffs.

Talks with Titan over a possible purchase of the plant’s farm tyre section – which is profitable – fell through last September after the CGT union rejected voluntary redundancies.

French per-head productivity levels do actually rank among the best in Europe.

Economists blame France’s industrial decline on its rigid hiring and firing laws and its 35-hour work week.