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US CEO Blasts 'Three Hours a Day' French Workers

Clerkenwell | the Agency Collection | Getty Images

The head of U.S. tire maker Titan launched a vitriolic attack on French productivity after the country's socialist government suggested he buy a tire factory in the north of France.

"How stupid do you think we are?" wrote Maurice Taylor, in a letter to French Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, obtained by French business newspaper Les Echos on Wednesday.

Montebourg had asked the U.S. mogul to take over a Goodyear tire factory that is due to close.

The factory is located in Amiens in France's industrial heartland, 75 miles north of Paris. Goodyear Tire & Rubber company reported in January that it will close the unprofitable plant, putting around 1,000 workers out of jobs.

In his letter to Montebourg, Taylor left no doubt as to why he did not want to buy the factory.

"I have visited that factory a couple of times. 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 hours," he wrote.

"I told this to the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!"

Taylor, who is nicknamed "the Grizz" by Wall Street analysts because of his tough negotiating style, said he had other expansion plans in mind for Titan.

"Titan is going to buy a Chinese tire company or an Indian one, pay less than one Euro per hour wage and ship all the tires France needs," he wrote. "You can keep the so-called workers. Titan has no interest in the Amiens North factory."

Taylor led a leveraged buy-out of Titan in 1990, before purchasing the remaining interest in the $100 million company along with MascoTech. He then launched an unsuccessful bid to be U.S. President in 1996, campaigning as a Republican to bring sound fiscal management and business know-how to Washington.

In his letter, Taylor predicted that French stalwart Michelin will have ceased producing tires in France within five years. "France will lose its industrial business because its government is more government."

And the U.S. government has no reason for complacency either. "The U.S. government is not much better than the French. Titan had to pay millions to Washington lawyers to sue the Chinese tire companies because of their subsidizing. Titan won. The government collects the duties. We don't get the duties, the government does," said Taylor.

- By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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