The Grizz mauls 'lazy' French workers over 'three-hour day'

US industrialist Maurice Taylor sparks storm by insulting staff, refuses to save ailing tyre factory

Paris

An American industrialist has kicked up a firestorm in France for refusing to save an ailing French tyre maker on the ground that its “so-called workers” are lazy and only at their posts for three hours a day.

In an incendiary letter, Maurice Taylor, boss of the US firm Titan, told the French Industry Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, that he had visited the struggling Goodyear factory in Amiens, where he said “the French workforce get paid high wages but only works three hours”.

Mr Taylor added that the workers “get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three”. When he discussed this with representatives of the “crazy” French union, they told him “it’s the French way”.

“How stupid do you think we are?” Mr Taylor asked, ending his letter by telling Mr Montebourg: “You can keep the so-called workers.”

Mr Montebourg did not immediately respond, saying he did not wish to harm French interests. But aides said he would reply to Mr Taylor, also known as “the Grizz”.

The Goodyear factory in Normandy has been threatened with closure since January, with the predicted loss of 1,173 jobs, after five years of negotiations. Mr Taylor had been called in to assess whether Titan might take over production of agricultural tyres at the loss-making plant.

Union leaders at the Normandy plant were nonplussed. Mickael Wamen, a spokesman for the CGT, described Mr Taylor as “closer to the lunatic asylum than able to hold the reins of a multinational company” and called his letter a “total insult”. Mr Wamen also threatened legal action against Titan.

Some conservative lawmakers suggested that the letter was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the French economy by the flamboyant Mr Taylor and said that the business daily Les Echos had fallen into a trap by publishing it.

The letter has also sparked a fresh debate on the issue of French competitiveness, at a time when the Socialist government is accused of stifling the profit motive by introducing a 75 per cent tax on millionaires. French sociologists in Amiens condemned the caricature of the French work ethic as depicted by Mr Taylor. “He’s prejudiced. It shows bad faith,” said Laurence Proteau, from Amiens University, who pointed out that the workload in France had risen rather than diminished. She also took issue with Mr Taylor’s assertion that the French workers were highly paid. “It’s tough for workers to make ends meet on €1,000 to €1,300 (£870 to £1,135) per month in full-time jobs,” she said.

Another Amiens expert on the French labour market, Pascal de Poorter, noted that a recent study by Dominique Méda concluded that France was one of the countries in Europe where attachment to work was the highest.

Productivity statistics also highlight French competitiveness despite a  35-hour working week. According to the Organisation for Economic  Co-operation and Development, considering the gross domestic product per hour worked, in 2011 the French came in at $57.7, ahead of Germans at $55.8, and British workers at $47.2. US workers were just ahead of the French at $60.2.

Mr Taylor also said Barack Obama’s administration was “not much better than the French”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence