After refusing to bail out a flailing tire company in northern France, American tycoon Maurice Taylor explained his decision in a letter to a French official, saying the factory's workers are "lazy, overpaid and talk too much."
Known as "The Grizz" for his tough negotiating style, Taylor is chairman of U.S. tire giant Titan International which had considered the plight of the factory in Amiens when Goodyear decided to shutter it.
Taylor sent the blunt letter to Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg earlier this year and it was published by financial newspaper Les Echoes on Wednesday.
"I have visited the factory several times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but works only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three hours and work for three," Taylor wrote to Montebourg. "I told the French union workers this to their faces. They told me that's the French way!"
"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's letter continued. "The French farmer wants cheap tires. He does not care if the tires come from India or China and these governments are subsidizing them. Your government doesn't care either."
The letter was prompted by the Jan. 31 Goodyear announcement of plans close the factory employing 1,170 as part of a larger downscaling across France. According to published reports, Goodyear plans to reduce its French workforce by 39 percent due largely to labor disputes and a collapsing car demand across Europe.
In his letter, Taylor noted efforts by Goodyear to save the factory.
"Goodyear tried for over four years to save some of the highest-paid Amiens jobs, but the French unions and the French government did nothing but talk," he wrote.
Taylor's sentiments appear to echo those of a former French finance minister and current International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde, who previously described the French workforce as "lethargic."
"Instead of thinking about their work, people think about their weekends, organizing, planning and engineering time off . . . If you say to a French person, 'would you like to be an entrepreneur?' all they do is run scared," said Lagarde, according to Britain's Daily Mail
Responding to Taylor's condemnation of the factory's workers, an official of France's General Confederation of Labor, Mickael Wamen, said Taylor belonged more "in an asylum" than the boardroom of a multinational company, reported the Daily Mail.
Montebourg's office has yet to issue a response to Taylor's remarks, telling reporters on Wednesday, "Don't worry, there will be a response," adding, "It's better written down."
According to a recent study by Swiss bank UBS, compared to other countries French workers spend the fewest hours working each year – just 1,480 hours annually with 27 days of vacation per year.
On the brink of suffering another recession, France has a current unemployment rate of three million, the highest joblessness level experienced by the country in 15 years.
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