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French union want talks with U.S. tire chief on layoff plans

Flames and smoke rise from burning tyres as a worker sits on a barricade blocking the entrance of U.S. tyre-maker Goodyear's plant to protes
Flames and smoke rise from burning tyres as a worker sits on a barricade blocking the entrance of U.S. tyre-maker Goodyear's plant to protes

PARIS (Reuters) - Union leaders at a Goodyear tire plant in northern France have agreed to talks with a Texan executive who caused a furor earlier this year by saying the factory was "not worth saving".

Titan International CEO Maurice Taylor accused the plant's workers of being lazy and its unions of being "insane" in an open letter to the French government in February.

But Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg, who had traded barbs with Taylor, has said the executive was reconsidering his abandoned takeover bid for the plant. His latest offer, for part of their operation, would save 333 out of a total 1,200 jobs.

Taylor, known as "the Grizz" for his gruff manner, has yet to confirm the plans.

"We're in favor of talks, we're in favor of pushing things forward, but only insofar as nobody is left behind," said Mickael Wamen, head representative at Goodyear for the CGT union, which represents a majority of workers.

Taylor's offer to buy the factory's tools for manufacturing agricultural tyres while abandoning its road tire division is similar to a previous offer he made, which would have preserved more jobs but was rejected by Wamen's union.

Wamen met Montebourg at the Finance Ministry on Wednesday and said that he wanted to press union demands directly to Taylor in a meeting at his U.S. offices.

Montebourg declined to say whether Taylor had agreed to meet unions, but said the executive had softened his view on French workers.

"There were six years of very hard struggle on this site, and now I'd like to work on an honorable peace," Montebourg said. "Mr. Taylor, who had very harsh words for French workers and for the French government, has finally agreed to wash the slate clean of such criticism."

(Reporting by Marion Douet and Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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