France atrophies under workweek practices

  • Article by: DALE MCFEATTERS , Scripps Howard News Service
  • Updated: February 23, 2013 - 3:14 PM

The result of fewer hours is spurned opportunities and persistent unemployment. Blame unions and government.

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Tourists and Parisians walk on the Opera Avenue after heavy snow fall, in Paris, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013.

Photo: Remy De La Mauviniere, Associated Press - Ap

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Now that the socialists are in power, the French approach to unemployment is to shorten the workweek so that companies are forced to hire more people to achieve the same amount of output.

It doesn’t work. Unemployment remains stubbornly over 10 percent. But the workers and the socialist government are happy with it. Not so much the employers and especially not so much prospective employers.

When a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in northern France began to shut down, in part because of problems with its communist-run union, Arnaud Montebourg, the French minister of industry, began to look around for a company to take over the plant.

Unfortunately, one of those he approached, according to reports, was the U.S. head of Titan International Inc., a notoriously blunt-spoken executive, Maurice Taylor, known as “the Grizz.”

“How stupid do you think we are?” Taylor wrote back, including his impressions of the French workday, as widely reported:

“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.”

Taylor went on, “I told this to the French unions to their faces and they told me, ‘That’s the French way.’  ”Clearly, the French way was not the Taylor way.

Montebourg wrote back, calling Taylor’s comments “insulting” and “extremist.” The communist union called Taylor a “lunatic.”

“You can keep your so-called workers,” Taylor responded. Instead, he would build a factory in China or India, where labor is much cheaper, and export the tires to France at prices that the French tiremaker Michelin would be unable to match.

Montebourg, in effect, wished him good luck getting through the red tape the French government would throw in his way.

This is all very entertaining, but there are 1,173 workers at a failing French tire plant who are not laughing, and neither their government nor their union has done them any favors.

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