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Plans for a "France Region": Motion from Joint HQ-Status Trade Unions

Thursday 24 January 2013

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The following resolution on AFP management’s proposals for a new entity to be called the "France Region" is supported unanimously by the elected members of the AFP works committee and all the trade unions representing HQ-status staff at the agency (CGT, SNJ, CFDT, FO, SUD and CFE-CGC). It was read out during the works committee meeting held on Thursday, January 24, at which the management proposal was on the agenda.

AFP staff who wish to express support for this text are invited to write in to the joint unions at "inter@afp.com" to say (for example), "I support the motion condemning management’s approach to the ’France Region’". Please note that the e-mail address in question can only be contacted from an AFP console or workstation.

The motion is as follows:

"The elected members of the AFP works committee and the HQ-status trade unions strongly oppose the way in which the proposal to create a "France region" has been drawn up, and also oppose the changes mooted, which would result in a deterioration of both editorial coverage and working conditions for staff, particularly outside Paris.

"The drafting of the proposed reform has been shoddy, chaotic, incomplete, and based on a phony process of internal consultation. Management claims to be acting on "recommendations made by the working groups" which it set up. Basic common sense would have demanded that it first draw up a balance sheet of the current situation regarding AFP’s coverage of France. Such "status reports" were indeed included in the plans - but were to be drawn up only in the weeks ahead, according to a document provided to the unions after an initial meeting on January 10. Bizarrely, the official document outlining the reform that was submitted to the works committee for its January 24 session, failed to mention any such reports. Given the formal nature of the January 24 meeting, such an omission is totally unacceptable.

"Among other anomalies, the working groups set up by management have in fact submitted neither recommentations nor reports - which has not prevented management from claiming that its proposed reforms are based on "proposals emanating from" the said working groups. Furthermore, some of the "proposals" taken on board by management do not even figure in any of the minutes of the working groups. An example being the proposed setting-up of a French "Defence/Foreign Affairs/Terrorism" editorial unit, for example. Many other aspects of the proposed reform remain shrouded in mystery.

"At bottom, the document submitted by management contains no indication whatsoever of the type of editorial policy that AFP plans to implement in covering France, particularly in the French regions. Indeed the reform appears to be motivated by just two concerns, which management has made no secret of: a desire to make cost savings and in particular to cut staffing costs, and to strengthen the control of the editor in chief’s office over the collecting, editing and delivery of news to clients. The proposal to cut the number of senior staff in each regional bureau from two to one (leaving a single person in charge of two such bureaus in the event of one of them being absent) seems outlandish to us. If implemented, management’s "proposals" could only lead to a serious worsening of working conditions, causing increased tension at all levels and thereby sapping staff motivation.

"For all the above reasons we demand that the project as submitted to the works committee be withdrawn. We also solemnly warn management against any desire to ride roughshod over the opposition of both staff and their union representatives by forcing the project through. Any such action would be met by a strong response."

Joint AFP unions - PARIS, January 24, 2013 - internal e-mail: inter@afp.com