PARIS (Reuters) – The CEO of a U.S. tire maker has delivered a crushing summary of how some outsiders view France’s work ethic in a letter saying he would have to be stupid to take over a factory whose staff only put in three hours work a day.
Titan International’s Maurice “Morry” Taylor, who goes by “The Grizz” for his bear-like no-nonsense style, told the left-wing French industry minister in a letter published by Paris media that he had no interest in buying a doomed plant.
“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,” Taylor wrote on February 8 in the letter in English addressed to the minister, Arnaud Montebourg.
“I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!” Taylor added in the letter, which was posted by business daily Les Echos on its website on Wednesday and which the ministry confirmed was genuine.
“How stupid do you think we are?” he asked at one point.
“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,” he said. “You can keep the so-called workers.”
Socialist President Francois Hollande might take some comfort in Taylor’s view of Washington: “The U.S. government is not much better than the French,” he said, complaining Western leaders were failing to halt state-subsidized Chinese exports.
Taylor has built Illinois-based Titan over 23 years into a global brand in tires for tractors and other off-road machinery. Proud of being “The Grizz” – his group’s logo features a cartoon bear and its website opens to the roar of a grizzly – Taylor has clashed with unions before and ran for the White House in the 1996 Republican primary, campaigning on a pro-business ticket.
At that time, he admitted to being “abrasive” in order to “get the job done”: “The politicians, they all want you to like them,” he told an interviewer. “I don’t care if people like me.”
To Montebourg, the author of “Kill All the Lawyers and Other Ways to Fix the Government” wrote: “You’re a politician so you don’t want to rock the boat … France will lose its industrial business because its government is more government.”