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US corporate capitalism snubs French socialism

world Updated: Feb 21, 2013 01:19 IST
Kim Willsher
Kim Willsher
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Let us be perfectly honest, there was no way an avowed capitalist from America intent on making money and a Socialist French minister intent on protecting workers’ rights, were going to see eye to eye.

However, the flaming letter sent from Maurice “Morry” Taylor Jr, head of the tyre company Titan International, to the French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg still revealed something of a culture shock.

Taylor, a 1996 US presidential candidate, revealed he was no loss to the international diplomatic service, in his letter to the minister after the latter had suggested he might like to take over a Goodyear tyre production factory in the economically struggling industrial heartland of northern France, near Amiens.

“I’ve visited this factory several times,” he said in the letter. “The French workers are paid high wages but only work three hours. They have one hour for their lunch, they talk for three hours and they work for three hours. I said this directly to their union leaders; they replied that’s the way it is in France.

“Sir, your letter suggests you would like to open discussions with Titan. You think we’re that stupid? Titan has money and the know-how to produce tyres. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He doesn’t care if those tyres come from China or India or if those tyres are subsidised.”

The written broadside came after the French government, anxious to save jobs at Goodyear, initiated talks. Very quickly, Montebourg could see the takeover project was going nowhere and publicly hinted as much. Taylor went considerably further in his letter.

“Titan is going to buy Chinese or Indian tyres, pay less than 1 euro an hour to workers and export all the tyres that France needs,” Taylor boasted. “In five years, Michelin won’t be producing tyres in France. You can keep your so-called workers.

“Titan is not interested in the factory in North Amiens,” concluded Michigan-born Taylor, nicknamed “The Grizz” and reputed to be hot-tempered and “rough hewn” according to Forbes magazine.

Asked about the letter on Wednesday, Montebourg refused to comment. “I do not want to harm France’s interests,” he told journalists.

Mickael Wamen, a leader of the CGT union, France’s largest union, at Goodyear in North Amiens, said Taylor’s response was “an insulting letter”.

Guardian News Service