The French work just three hours a day - US investor

Maurice "Morry" Taylor (L), chairman and chief executive of Titan International, Inc., is shown in this undated handout photograph. Taylor has delivered a crushing summary of how some outsiders view France's work ethic in a letter saying he would have to be stupid to take over a factory whose staff only put in three hours work a day. REUTERS/Courtesy of Titan International/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION WILL BE PROVIDED SEPARATELY

Jonathan Gray

A US businessman has caused an international row by blasting the French work ethic

MAURICE Taylor, of tyre-maker Titan International, wrote a no-holds-barred letter to the French industry minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Mr Taylor, nicknamed 'The Grizz', was explaining why his firm would never buy part of an ailing Goodyear factory in Amiens.

"I have visited the factory a couple of times," the letter dated February 8 reads, according to a copy published yesterday in Les Echos newspaper.

"The French workforce gets paid high wages but only work for three hours. 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!"

The ministry had approached Titan to start discussions on buying up part of the Goodyear factory.

Mr Taylor's response in the letter was blunt, to say the least: "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 have? It has the French government."

The ministry confirmed the letter as authentic, but efforts to get comment from Titan were unsuccessful.

The letter, which refers to French employees as "so-called workers", prompted a media backlash against Mr Taylor and caused the French government to defend itself.

In a written reply yesterday, Mr Montebourg tells Mr Taylor: "Your words, as extremist as they are insulting, show a perfect ignorance of our country.

"Can I remind you that Titan, the company you head is 20 times smaller than Michelin, the French technology leader with a global reach, and 35 times more profitable?

"That shows the extent that Titan could have learnt enormously from a French base."

French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem also weighed in, saying: "I would like to remind Mr Taylor that France remains the number one European destination for American investors.

"And it's likely there are very good reasons for that."