French minister targets ‘extremist’ CEO’s US firm

A French minister on Wednesday said he had asked custom officers to tighten checks on Titan tyres a month after the US company's CEO mocked France's work ethics.

French minister targets 'extremist' CEO's US firm
Goodyear workers on a recent strike were mocked by an American CEO for working only three hours a day. Photo AFP

"We have asked customs to enforce French law, in particular when it comes to tyres produced in conditions that sometimes does not respect environmental and technical norms," Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg said.

"The message has been passed on. This is what I call law enforcement," Montebourg said.

Last month, Titan chief Maurice Taylor rejected Paris's invitation to invest in a loss-making Goodyear tyre plant, citing French business conditions, especially its wages and work ethics.

In his rebuff letter, Taylor said "the French workforce gets paid high wages but only works three hours" a day.

The letter triggered an uproar in France, and Montebourg accused the American executive of stupidity.

"Your extremist insults display a perfect ignorance of what our country is about," he wrote, adding "be assured that you can count on me to inspect your tyre imports with redoubled zeal".

Montebourg has provoked controversy by threatening to nationalise facilities that foreign investors want to scale down.

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After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France… GE set to cut 1,044

US industrial conglomerate General Electric said on Tuesday that it would cut more than 1,000 jobs, mainly at its gas turbine operations in eastern France, part of a wave of European layoffs as it tries to stem losses in its power generation business.

After promising to create 1,000 jobs in France... GE set to cut 1,044
Photo: AFP
The 1,044 job cuts, long feared by unions, could become a political challenge for President Emmanuel Macron, who assured local officials this month that the government was following the matter with “the utmost vigilance”.
The cuts will be made mainly in Belfort, eastern France, the European headquarters for GE Energy, and in the Paris region, the company said in a statement.
“More than half the number of employees in the gas activities… are going to lose their jobs,” the mayor of Belfort, Damien Meslot, and other local officials said in a statement.
They warned of “a new hardship” for the region, which has been hit hard by the decline of mining and heavy industry over the past decades.

US giant GE to pay France €50 million after creating just 25 jobs out of 1,000Photo: AFP

Overall, GE employs nearly 4,000 people in Belfort, including 1,900 in its gas turbine operations.   

The company has struggled for years with slumping demand for its gas turbines because of low oil and gas prices, and the power operations were a key factor in its massive annual loss of $22.8 billion last year.
In 2015 GE announced 6,500 job cuts across Europe, and two years later it revealed a further 12,000 cuts.
That prompted France to fine the company €50 million earlier this year, since GE had promised to create at least 1,000 new jobs when it announced the purchase of the power businesses from France's Alstom in 2014.
Shortly after closing that deal, GE unveiled a series of job cuts across Europe as slumping oil and gas prices crimped demand for its heavy-duty turbines and other equipment.
The company had already warned last year that it wouldn't meet the target, though the new CEO Larry Culp confirmed in October that GE would “fulfil its commitments.”
It had promised to pay €50,000 for every job not created over the three-year period.