How to alienate the French? (Tell them they’re lazy)

Maurice Taylor, head honcho of American tyre firm Titan, has managed to get the French fuming a short while ago.  And now he has done it again…. He’s blaming the French government, saying that its ministers have no idea how to run a business and at the same time stating that he loves French women and wine. As if that has anything to do with business.

The brash American CEO got the French fuming earlier this month when he took aim at the country’s business conditions, especially its wages and work ethic. ‘The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours,’ Taylor said this after he was asked to consider investing in the loss-making Goodyear tyre plant in northern France.

‘I have visited that factory a couple of times,’ he added. ‘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!’ Sounds like the Leninist workers paradise has finally arrived after the CCCP didn’t manage to materialise the concept.

In a letter addressed to Arnaud Montebourg, France’s minister for industrial renewal, Taylor said France’s industrial base was under threat from low productivity and cheap imports.

‘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. Titan has no interest in the Amiens North factory,’ he wrote in the letter dated 8 February, which was published in a French newspaper earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Montebourg hit back with a written reply published in financial daily Les Echos. ‘Your words, as extremist as they are insulting, show a perfect ignorance of our country,’ Montebourg wrote. ‘Be assured that you can count on me to inspect your tyre imports with a redoubled zeal.’ Do I sense some threatening behaviour going on here?

The Titan boss has now responded, saying that France’s political class is ‘out of touch (with) real world problems.’

It certainly sounds like a clash of cultures, pitting the mediterranean work ethic against the Anglo-saxon. To the outside world this typifies the French attitude to work. They’ll work when it suits them. To the French the reponse typifies the American obnoxious way of handling worker relationships. No doubt the truth lies somewhere in the middle, but when sparks fly you only hear about the extremes either side.

The French are still of the opinion that their culture is far superior to anything else in the world, whereas the Americans look at their figures and can only conclude that the French are not particularly productive.

The solution might be in the approach the Germans have taken. They’re expensive, but the productivity, quality and reliability of their work is high. And thus companies and consumers are willing to pay for it. They might have a limited sense of humor, but they can work! No time for jokes…… 🙂

What the French seem to have misunderstood is that the modern world is a commercial one. If stuff can be had cheaper and better somewhere else, it will be bought there. In a global economy relationships last only for as long as they are profitable. Call that extremism if your local voters want to hear that, but they would have been better off slashing red tape, making it easier to do business in France (Or for that matter in most European countries). That way companies would continue to invest and jobs would be secure.

Simples really.



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