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France Region, Africa: Unions Call for Further Mobilisation to Block Management Plans

Tuesday 5 February 2013

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

On Thursday January 31st, AFP staff working in France expressed massive opposition to management’s plans to reorganise coverage of France and Africa by stopping work for seven hours, following a general assembly called by all unions representing HQ-status staff.

The assembly was attended by around 200 people at the Paris HQ and followed over a phone link by around as many in other French regions, despite attempts by management to curb communication between the unions and staff.

The resulting strike, and the growing list of signatures on the joint unions’ motion (over 200 to date) represent a serious warning shot fired across the bows of management.

Pending their meeting with the CEO at 9:15 am this Friday February 8th, the joint CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD and CFE/CGC unions call on staff to stand ready to increase the pressure. Emmanuel Hoog and his management team must give a clear answer to our demands, as laid down in the joint union platform published after last week’s general assembly.

The Joint Platform

1/ Withdrawal of the plan for a new "France Region" entity, as demanded in the motion adopted by elected members of the works committee on January 24.

2/ Africa: Cancellation of plans for a regional Africa office in Johannesburg; preservation of an independent francophone Africa Desk in Paris, with full staffing; immediate posting of the job of head of the Africa Desk; staffing increase for the English Desk journalists working on Africa; a full report on the effects of the decision to bring north African bureaus under the authority of Nicosia rather than Paris.

3/ The unions to be once again given the tools we need to communicate with staff. The unions apologise to the many people in AFP bureaus around the world who were unable to follow the Paris general assembly via a phone link. The responsibility for this loss of communication is entirely that of management.

The joint unions invite Paris-based staff to a new


on the first floor of the Rue Vivienne premises. Your union representatives will provide an account of their meeting with the CEO, and a decision will be taken on further actions if needed. Any new call for strike action will be subjected to a vote organised by the unions.

With a view to keeping up the pressure, we also call on staff to go on signing the initial motion published by the unions and the elected members of the works committee concerning the creation of a "France Region". Any staff who have not yet done so are asked to send an e-mail to the joint union address (inter "at" afp.com), stating (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, Tuesday February 5, 2013 - Internal e-mail address: inter "at" afp.com