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Angry French workers protest US takeover bid

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A worker throws another tyre on a fire in a blockade of the stricken Goodyear plant in Amiens, northern France on November 7th. Photo: François Lo Presti/AFP
13:02 CET+01:00
Workers protesting against the planned closure of a loss-making Goodyear factory in northern France on Thursday used a pile of burning tyres to blockade the plant, and had a colourful message for US company Titan, whose takeover bid could save the factory.

The action, organized by trade unions representing the 1,173 workers at the plant in Amiens, was organized in protest over the company's attempts to complete the shutdown.

Goodyear's management had called a final meeting of the company works council for Thursday in a bid to conclude the consultation process required under French law.

Union representatives walked out of the meeting shortly after it had started, claiming Goodyear had not complied with its obligations.

US firm Titan International has offered to take over part of the factory, which produces tyres for farm vehicles. If it goes ahead, Titan's plan would make redundant all employees, but recruit 333 of them again, and would keep the site active for at least four years.

But Goodyear workers had a clear and colourful message for the American company on Thursday, displaying a sign that roughly translates as: "Go f*** yourself, Titan - this is our home."


Photo: François Lo Presti/AFP

Titan's CEO Maurice Taylor had originally rejected the idea of taking over the loss-making Goodyear tyre plant, dismissing French workers as lazy and overpaid in a letter addressed to Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

"The French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours" a day, Taylor wrote in the letter.

Montebourg at the time denounced the comments as "extremist insults" and ordered increased customs checks on Titan's tyres.

In turn, Titan hit back at the comments in a new letter, once again attacking French workers, labeling France’s government "extremist", and calling union bosses "nutcases".

But in October Montebourg said that Taylor had now reversed his decision.

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Titan is ready to invest "about $100 million, including a minimum of $40 million at the site," he said.

In an interview with Le Monde last week, the Tayolor said that the CGT, France’s main workers union, and Goodyear plant must first “agree on a separation package” for the current workers, so that the new American owners could start from scratch.

After that, Taylor said he would recruit 333 from the then-former 1,200 Goodyear employees.

Reacting angrily to the news on Saturday, the CGT, infuriated by Taylor’s latest offer, branded it a “bluff”, saying the company “would not fall into his trap”.

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