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Coca-Cola Enterprises defends ‘French way’ after fierce Titan attack

By Ben Bouckley+

26-Feb-2013

Titan International CEO Maurice Taylor is outraged by the fact that some French workers get one hour for lunch
Titan International CEO Maurice Taylor is outraged by the fact that some French workers get one hour for lunch

Coca-Cola Enterprises has ridden to the rescue of French industrial recovery minister Arnaud Montebourg following his spat with the CEO of US tyre firm Titan International, who claimed that Goodyear’s French workers were too expensive and only worked three hours per day.

Several weeks ago the French government approached Titan International to gauge its interest in taking over a Goodyear tyre plant in Amiens that the latter company has earmarked for closure.

But Titan CEO and Maurice Taylor – who had been interested in buying the site – was clearly unimpressed, criticizing Goodyear’s French workers in a scathing letter to Montebourg.

‘Talk for three hours, work for three…’

“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 it was the French way,” he wrote, in a letter to Montebourg that led the minister to threaten to pile customs pressure on Titan’s tyre imports.

“You think we are as stupid as that? Titan is going to buy a Chinese tyre company or an Indian one, pay less than one euro per hour in salary and export all the tyres France needs,” Taylor said. You can keep the so-called workers.”

But in a letter reproduced in Le Monde today , Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) France president Tristan Farabet rode to Montebourg’s rescue, noting French national pride in welcoming international companies, and the resulting jobs and economic and social value this created.

CCE proud to invest in France

He invited Montebourg to “share our experience and reflect on the means to create and further strengthen the desire of foreign companies to produce in France”.

“We are particularly sensitive to the fact that you have underlined on this occasion the solidity of the historic lines of collaboration with certain of them [international companies], in the front rank of which is Coca-Cola,” Farabet said.

He adds that CCE shared Montebourg’s pride, and had been happy to invest in France over the last 90 years, pumping €400m into its five French factories in Clamart, Gringy, Dunkerque, Castanet-Tolosan and Les Pennes-Mirabeau.

“Participating in the economic dynamism of this country appears rather more natural to us because we maintain a singular history with France and the French, since more than three quarters of them are our faithful consumers.”

Despite a difficult economic climate, CCE remained more determined than ever to pursue its investment in France, Farabet said, with €66m more due to be spent on industrial developments in France in 2013.