PARIS, Oct 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. tyre executive who infuriated the French by calling workers at a doomed Goodyear factory "not worth saving" has made an offer to buy the plant, France's industry minister was quoted as saying on Tuesday.
Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said Titan International's Maurice Taylor had offered several millions euros to buy the northern French Amiens factory, months after saying he would have to be stupid to take over a plant where he said staff only worked three hours a day.
"I have met Maurice Taylor, who had had very unpleasant comments about France. He is offering to save 333 jobs out of 1,200," Montebourg told Le Parisien newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.
"He guarantees that jobs will be preserved for four years," said Montebourg, a protectionist whose arguments with Taylor over the factory and France's work ethic were made public.
The offer has not yet formally been presented to labour unions and will be discussed with them on Wednesday at the ministry, Montebourg said.
Goodyear France could not be immediately reached for comment. Taylor declined to confirm the offer when reached by France's AFP news agency on Monday.
Unions rejected an earlier Titan offer when more jobs would have been preserved.
Despite having per capita productivity levels that rank among the best in Europe, France's rigid hiring and firing laws are seen by many economists as the cause of a long industrial decline that has dented French exports.
Some also say the country's 35-hour work week means the country's manufacturing sector lags behind that of Germany.
In a letter to Montebourg published in February, Taylor said: "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."
"You can keep the so-called workers."
Montebourg responded in a prickly letter of his own calling Taylor's views "extremist" and "insulting".