The French! They're so lazy. They don't want to work, they just want to lay around in their berets eating cheese, drinking wine, making love and losing wars. Not like us hard work-loving Americans. At least, that's the perception that tire company CEO Maurice Taylor has of the French. And he's not afraid to say it.
The backstory: Taylor, the CEO of Titan International Inc., wrote a letter to French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg saying that he would not reconsider buying a tire plant that Goodyear is closing down in that country. Why not? Because the French workers are too lazy, that's why! From Reuters:
"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 Feb. 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.
You read that right, boys and girls. They only work three hours a day in France, according to Taylor, who in 1996 ran for president as a Republican but failed to get the nod. Taylor goes by "Grizz" and has been described as a "no-nonsense" kind of guy. That's one way to put it.
Bloomberg reports that earlier this month Taylor announced that he was giving up on Quincy, Illinois-based Titan's attempts to take over some of Goodyear’s operations in northern France. All of this comes at a time when French officials are trying to boost their productivity in order to stay competitive in a globalized world.
Montebourg, the industry minister, responded today with a smackdown of his own, saying Taylor's comments "are as extremist as they are insulting" and "testify to your perfect ignorance of our country, La France, and its strengths.” He also added this nice little tidbit:
"The company you manage is 20 times smaller than Michelin, the genuinely international French leader, and 35 times less profitable.”
OH NO HE DIDN'T.
At any rate, Taylor's comments have spread like wildifre throughout business news in America and in Europe. Yet I have seen no one come out and say whether Taylor's claims are true or false. The French only work three hours a day in their factories? That sounds like something out of an anti-Obama chain email forwarded to you by an angry retired person. A union official said Taylor's comments were based on a visit to a factory that was on short-time hours.
Can anyone out there attest to the veracity of what Taylor says?
Photo credit AP