U.S. CEO calls French wine-drinking slackers

When French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg wrote to Maurice Taylor, asking him to invest in a failing Goodyear tire plant in Northern France, the Titan Tire CEO could have just said, "no." But that’s not really his style: "I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages ...

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GettyImages
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GettyImages
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP/GettyImages

When French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg wrote to Maurice Taylor, asking him to invest in a failing Goodyear tire plant in Northern France, the Titan Tire CEO could have just said, "no." But that's not really his style:

"I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours," Taylor said in the letter, dated February 8 and obtained by French business daily Les Echos.

"They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!"[...]

When French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg wrote to Maurice Taylor, asking him to invest in a failing Goodyear tire plant in Northern France, the Titan Tire CEO could have just said, "no." But that’s not really his style:

"I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours," Taylor said in the letter, dated February 8 and obtained by French business daily Les Echos.

"They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!"[…]

"Titan is going to buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour wage and ship all the tyres France needs. You can keep the so-called workers."

Taylor followed up in an interview with the AFP:

"I just came back from Australia and I met there young Frenchmen and women and young Spanish men and women who have moved there because they can get jobs down there and they’re excited to build something," he said.

"That’s why in France pretty soon everybody will be sitting down in cafes sipping a glass of wine but they won’t be making any money."

After it was obtained by the media, the letter provoked outrage in France and Montenbourg responded with an angry letter promising to "inspect your tyre imports with a redoubled zeal."

Obviously Taylor, a one-time longshot candidate for the GOP nomination for president and author of Kill All the Lawyers and Other Ways to Fix the Government,  was being hyperbolic. But is there any truth to the critique? 

Kind of. French workers work the fourth fewest hours per year in the OECD, according to the organization’s statistics. Only the Norwegians, Germans and Dutch work less. On the other hand, if working long hours was all it took to drive the economy, Greece — and no. 4 in the OECD — would be an industrial dynamo.

On the OECD’s labor productivity rankings, France comes in a respectable 7th after Norway, Luxembourg, Ireland, the U.S., Netherlands, and Belgium. So it seems they are getting something done in between those bottles of bourdeaux. Australia comes in 13th.  

 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

More from Foreign Policy

A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed  according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.
A worker cuts the nose off the last Ukraine's Tupolev-22M3, the Soviet-made strategic aircraft able to carry nuclear weapons at a military base in Poltava, Ukraine on Jan. 27, 2006. A total of 60 aircraft were destroyed according to the USA-Ukrainian disarmament agreement.

Why Do People Hate Realism So Much?

The school of thought doesn’t explain everything—but its proponents foresaw the potential for conflict over Ukraine long before it erupted.

Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.
Employees watch a cargo ship at a port in China, which is experiencing an economic downturn.

China’s Crisis of Confidence

What if, instead of being a competitor, China can no longer afford to compete at all?

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies in the U.S. Senate in Washington on Sept. 24, 2020.

Why This Global Economic Crisis Is Different

This is the first time since World War II that there may be no cooperative way out.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (left) and Premier Li Keqiang applaud at the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 11.

China Is Hardening Itself for Economic War

Beijing is trying to close economic vulnerabilities out of fear of U.S. containment.