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Old 20 February 2013, 02:20 PM
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France US tyre boss mocks ‘crazy’ French unions

The head of US tyre manufacturer Titan International told the French government Wednesday that his firm will not take over a loss-making Goodyear factory because the unions there are “crazy” and its employees “only work three hours a day”.

“How stupid do you think we are?” Titan Chief Executive Maurice Taylor asked French Minister for Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg in a letter published by French business daily Les Echos [in French and English].

http://www.france24.com/en/20130220-...factory-unions

From what is reported, it appears that it is not the word 'crazy' that should be in quotes, but 'mocks', as the statements appear to be only criticism, not mocking.
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  #2  
Old 20 February 2013, 03:04 PM
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It's very derisive criticism, and not too well researched by the looks of it. I'd call that mockery.
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Old 20 February 2013, 03:35 PM
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And yet you provide no contrary information as you pronounce from on high your superior assessment of the situation, though the manufacturer shows he has actually been in the factory observing, and dealt more or less directly with the union.
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Old 20 February 2013, 04:27 PM
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If you think a Union boss openly stated to a possible new owner that the workers did nothing for half of their contracted working hours, I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

ETA: And even if (somehow) everything Mr Taylor said is literally true, that's still a mocking tone. "How stupid do you think we are?" is hardly a polite thing to say.
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Old 20 February 2013, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BringTheNoise View Post
If you think a Union boss openly stated to a possible new owner that the workers did nothing for half of their contracted working hours, I've got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.
Taylor did not claim that the union boss admitted the three-hours-a-day, but that union members at the factory, where the company representative visited multiple times, readily acknowledged it.

Quote:
“I have visited that factory a couple of times. The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works for three hours.

A Titan commercial shows its CEO Maurice Taylor expressing his opinion of the French.

“They get one hour for breaks and lunch, they talk for three and they work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”
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Originally Posted by BringTheNoise View Post
ETA: And even if (somehow) everything Mr Taylor said is literally true, that's still a mocking tone. "How stupid do you think we are?" is hardly a polite thing to say.
I do not see why it is not polite. It is blunt, yes, but not rude. If anything, the rudeness was in asking someone to take on such a dysfunctional enterprise without providing appropriate tools to straighten things out.
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Old 20 February 2013, 04:50 PM
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Quote:
“They get one hour for breaks and lunch, they talk for three and they work for three. I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that’s the French way!”
This doesn't read to you as either a) exaggertion by Taylor, b) a joke by the workers or c) a bit of both?

Again: You are arguing that someone with their livelihood on the line would admit to being lazy and not worth employing. They're in a union, not braindead.
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  #7  
Old 20 February 2013, 06:02 PM
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Yea.. I mean it sounds like those stories about some welfare queen scamming the government and admitting it to some random person (like the one about the car dealer or the Realtor). It's not like scams aren't out there, but who are these people who talk about it?

It could be true I guess, but I'd hope for more to back it up particularly given the typical "Union workers are lazy" argument that is so present in American politics.. Until of course they want to use union workers as political capital (teachers, police, firefighters, nurses, 'real american factory workers', etc)
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Old 20 February 2013, 06:35 PM
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Of course, the three hours thing is a gross exaggeration. But I can understand the frustration with the union from which it arises:

* Titan tried to open negotiations to take over the Amiens plant in 2012.

* The negotiations were blocked by the union.

* Meanwhile, China starts dumping tires of the types and sizes made at the Amiens plant at below-cost prices all over Europe, eliminating much if not most of the demand for the Amiens plant's product.

* Goodyear announces it is going to close the money-losing plant, and its union jobs.

* Plant representatives attempt to re-open the negotiations that the union had blocked.

* The Titan president declines undiplomatically.

As I see it, Titan has a reputation for reforming money-losing enterprises, and could likely have made the plant profitable were it not for the French government's decision not to impose tariffs on Chinese imported tires. But in the absence of that protection, not even they could have done it.
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Old 20 February 2013, 06:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
It could be true I guess, but I'd hope for more to back it up particularly given the typical "Union workers are lazy" argument that is so present in American politics..
Well, there is the "French people are lazy" trope. Not that that makes the story any more convincing to me, but it might to some people.
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  #10  
Old 20 February 2013, 07:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey Blue View Post
It could be true I guess, but I'd hope for more to back it up particularly given the typical "Union workers are lazy" argument that is so present in American politics..
European unions and labour laws are very different then those in the United States. I could see where an American would see the French as lazy compared to us. The wages are higher, the hours less, the benefits are more, etc.

Personally I have come to the realization that the US needs better labour laws. While it's hard to say we are 'abused', we do not realize the benefits of our other first world competition.
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Old 20 February 2013, 10:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BoKu View Post
As I see it, Titan has a reputation for reforming money-losing enterprises, and could likely have made the plant profitable were it not for the French government's decision not to impose tariffs on Chinese imported tires. But in the absence of that protection, not even they could have done it.
To be fair, I'm not sure the French government alone could impose a tariff - I believe that single market regulations mean that tariffs can only be imposed by the EU, not individual member states.

Disclaimer: IANA(Practising)L and it's been about 8 years since I last studied EU law.
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Old 20 February 2013, 11:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BringTheNoise View Post
To be fair, I'm not sure the French government alone could impose a tariff - I believe that single market regulations mean that tariffs can only be imposed by the EU, not individual member states.

Disclaimer: IANA(Practising)L and it's been about 8 years since I last studied EU law.
Good point, BTN, I hadn't thought of that.
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  #13  
Old 20 February 2013, 11:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
And yet you provide no contrary information as you pronounce from on high your superior assessment of the situation, though the manufacturer shows he has actually been in the factory observing, and dealt more or less directly with the union.
Because someone who wrote a book titled "Kill All the Lawyers and Other Ways to Fix the Government" would never, ever engage in hyperbole.
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Old 20 February 2013, 11:44 PM
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When did a half hour lunch, 15 minute morning break, and 15 minute afternoon break become excessive? I thought that was pretty much the standard in the U.S., whether you are union or non-union, particularly in a factory with its fast paced manual labor. Have things really changed that much?
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Old 21 February 2013, 02:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horse Chestnut View Post
When did a half hour lunch, 15 minute morning break, and 15 minute afternoon break become excessive? I thought that was pretty much the standard in the U.S., whether you are union or non-union, particularly in a factory with its fast paced manual labor. Have things really changed that much?
If you are talking about this statement:
Quote:
They get one hour for breaks and lunch, they talk for three and they work for three.
I think you missed the problem in that statement.
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Old 21 February 2013, 02:30 AM
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Not really. I consider the "3 hours of talking" statement to be pretty much he said/they said. Show me the proof. And while you're at it, Mr. Taylor, try carrying a stop watch and time how long your chats in the hallways and executive wash rooms go on. Oh wait. CEO's really don't have to account for their down time.
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  #17  
Old 21 February 2013, 06:28 PM
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My immediate reaction was that the US does not have tyre companies. We have TIRE companies, damn it!
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Old 22 February 2013, 02:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horse Chestnut View Post
When did a half hour lunch, 15 minute morning break, and 15 minute afternoon break become excessive? I thought that was pretty much the standard in the U.S., whether you are union or non-union, particularly in a factory with its fast paced manual labor. Have things really changed that much?
The way I read it, he was talking 1 hour breaks and 1 hour lunch.

Last edited by tagurit; 22 February 2013 at 02:11 PM. Reason: clarification
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  #19  
Old 22 February 2013, 03:59 PM
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This business brought so many thoughts to my mind that I'm still taking time to organize them, but here goes...

This morning, during the only 30 minutes break I'm allowed, on an information channel, I saw an interview of him in which he said that Arnaud Montebourg had leaked the letter in a plot to keep french workers from worrying about the state of the economy. Given my distrust of politicians, I wouldn't put it past him. But there might be another theory here. Bear with me...

Before yestreday, I had never heard of that guy, or his brand of tyres. So I wonder if all that isn't an advertising stunt, aimed at his american customer base. He writes that letter, knowing full well what kind of reactions he's going to get, so as to get free publicity, with a lot of french-bashing to attract the more "chauvins" of his customers.

Whatever the truth, it's clear that writing this letter was not the thing to do. It certainly reinforces the "ugly American" stereotype. Maybe a reding of "How to make Friends and Influence People" should be in order here.

As for french workers being lazy, statistics prove that it's not so. Overpaid ? Well, if we compare with Easter European countries, maybe. But if we put it in perspective with how much things cost here, certainly not. Here is my experience:

I work seven hours per day in a postal sorting center. I wake up at 4.30 to get to work at 6 am. I end work at 1 pm. This I do at least five days a week, six if I do overtime (which I have done for the past six months. I get only one thirty minutes break. And it's hard work, I can tell you that. For that, I earn som 1600 € per month, after deduction of what I give for healthcare and other insurances. Well, given that I owe some 1200 € in fixed expenses such as rent, taxes, loans and utilities, I only have between 300 and 400 € left for food and whatever I can buy.

Note that I don't complain, I have enough to live rahter comfortably, provided I don't do some stupid things like having credit card debt, for example. But I don't consider myself overpaid. Far from it.

Besides, that letter couldn't have come at a worst time. We already have had bad experience with foreign "investors" whose only aim seems to strip France (and other developed countries) of their industries. People like Mittal, for example, who is destroying our siderurgy, closing plants and mills nilly willy. Politicians make promises that said plants won't close, but a year or two later, they do close, and workers are left with no job prospects. All in the name of profit. This is enough to make me wonder if Earth isn't controlled by Ferengi. Judging wy who was elected president of France a few years ago, it might not be untrue.
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Old 22 February 2013, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kermor View Post
I work seven hours per day in a postal sorting center. I wake up at 4.30 to get to work at 6 am. I end work at 1 pm. This I do at least five days a week, six if I do overtime (which I have done for the past six months. I get only one thirty minutes break.
For point of comparison*, the standard full-time American worker would be working at least 1 hour more. If the break is unpaid (as many are) they'd be working until 2:30 or 3 pm.

*Not intended to humble-brag, I just can't rephrase it so it doesn't sound that way.
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