You can keep the so-called workers – Titan’s Taylor replies to French offer
He stopped short of deploying the phrase “lunch eating laziness monkeys” – but perhaps only just. Titan International chairman and CEO Maurice Taylor has penned a letter to France’s industry minister Arnaud Montebourg, mocking the latter’s well meant but ultimately misguided request for Titan and Taylor to reconsider buying the agricultural business at Goodyear’s Amiens Nord plant. Taylor, a man known for his forthrightness, also took the opportunity to express his feelings towards the Amiens plant workforce.
The letter, written on 8 February and printed in its original, English-language form by French financial daily Les Echos, describes Taylor’s experience of visiting the Amiens site and observing the plant workers in action: “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 writes that when he challenged French union workers about this, they replied that this was “the French way.”
The letter then places a question mark directly over Europe’s ongoing viability as a centre of tyre production, and Montebourg’s failure to address this issue. “The Chinese are shipping tyres into France – really all over Europe – and yet you do nothing. The Chinese government subsidises all the tyre companies. In five years, Michelin won’t be able to produce tyres in France. France will lose its industrial business because its government is more government.”
In case Monsieur Montebourg at this stage still considered Taylor’s letter a friendly prelude to formal negotiations, the Titan International boss then spelled out his opinion in unmistakably clear language. “Sir, your letter states that you want Titan to start a discussion. How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tyres. What does the crazy union [the CGT, whose craziness apparently stems from holding views differing from Taylor’s] have? The French government. The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He does not care if the tyres are from China or India and these governments are subsidising them. Your government doesn’t care either: ‘We’re French!’”
The government in Taylor’s homeland didn’t escape a pasting, either. “The US government is not much better than the French,” he writes. “Titan had to pay millions to Washington lawyers to sue the Chinese tyre companies because of their subsidising. Titan won. The government collects the duties. We don’t get the duties, the government does.”
In the letter’s closing paragraph, Maurice Taylor shares his plans with the French industry minister – plans bound to raise questions of worker exploitation. “Titan is going to buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one [the firm announced the purchase of Wheels India Ltd in February, however Titan’s shopping spree may not yet be over], pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres France needs.
“You can keep the so-called workers,” Taylor concludes. “Titan has no interest in the Amien (sic) North factory.”