'Keep your so-called workers': US CEO lashes out at France over plant takeover offer
A US tire CEO has told France to ‘keep its so-called workers’ and their ‘three hour work days’ after the government approached him with an offer to take over a struggling tire plant.
The spat began after France approached the firm about potentially taking over a struggling Goodyear tire factory in the northern city of Amiens.
Maurice ‘Morry’ Taylor Jr.’s reaction was short and simple:
“How stupid do you think we are?” he asked French Minister
for Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, in a letter published by
French business daily Les Echos.
“I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French
workforce gets paid high wages but only works for three hours,”
The businessman, whose negotiating style has earned him the
nickname ‘The Grizz,” didn’t stop there. He elaborated on every
detail of why he holds such a low regard for French
“They get one hour for breaks and lunch, they talk for three
and they work for three. I told this to the French union workers to
their faces. They told me that’s the French way!,” he
And so, Montebourg’s proposition was not-so-politely rejected.
It’s bad news for the plant, whose poor sales in 2011 led to a loss
of 61 million euros.
The blunt dialogue comes after Goodyear announced at the end of
January that it was definitively closing the plant, which employs
But despite the news, it appears Taylor has little to no
sympathy for the soon to be out-of-work employees.
“You can keep your so-called workers. Titan has no interest
in the Amiens North factory,” he wrote.
There was, however, a time when Titan expressed interest in the
plant. In 2012, the company approached Goodyear to discuss a
possible takeover – but negotiations were blocked by the
Communist-backed CGT union.
Reminiscing about the previous union complications, Taylor made
sure to include said union members in his letter.
“Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce
tires. What does the crazy union have? It has the French
government," he wrote.
Meanwhile, Montebourg – who is employed by the French government
– refrained from immediate comment but promised a reply.
“Don’t worry, there will be a response,” he said in a
statement. “It’s better written down.”
Union leaders have been less cautious with their words. CGT
official Mickael Wamen said Taylor belonged more “in an
asylum” than the boardroom of a multinational company.
It’s not the first time Montebourg has attempted to salvage
France’s ailing industrial sites. Last year, he launched verbal
attacks on firms seeking to shut down factories, prompting
But Montebourg’s previous efforts have fallen short in the eyes
of Taylor, who thinks the French minister could do more to deal
with troublesome unions and face up to Asian competition.
“You are a politician so you don’t want to rock the boat. The
Chinese are shipping tires into France, really all over Europe, and
yet you do nothing,” he wrote.
He then went a step further, making the point of Asian
competition a bit more personal.
“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 that France needs,” he wrote.
Economists blame France’s rigid hiring and firing laws for the
industrial decline, which has dented exports. Many have also
pointed the finger at the country’s 35-hour work week.