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Management Plans for France & Africa: CEO Backs Down

Friday 8 February 2013

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Statement by the joint unions representing HQ-status staff at AFP (CFDT, CGT, CFE-CGC, FO, SNJ and SUD):

  • CEO withdraws the "Pellegrin Plan" for a new entity to handle coverage of France, and agrees to preserve post of head of French-speaking Africa desk. Staff mobilisation has paid off.
  • The already-announced general assembly will take place as planned on Monday January 11 at 2:30 pm (1330 GMT) on the first floor of the Rue Vivienne premises in Paris. We will provide full information for staff and be happy to debate these issues with one and all.

Your union representatives spent around an hour and a half in talks with Emmanuel Hoog on Friday morning. The CEO was accompanied by his deputy Rémi Tomaszewski, news director Philippe Massonnet and Bernard Pellegrin, director for France. The talks had been demanded by the unions ten days earlier, on the basis of the following demands:

1/ Withdrawal of the plan for a new "France Region";

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.

In the meantime, staff working in France had responded massively to a call by the unions, expressing their opposition to management demands with a seven-hour strike on Thursday, January 31st.

The results of the meeting with the CEO were as follows:

1/ The "Pellegrin Plan" for a new France Region, laid out in a document submitted to the AFP Works Committee on January 24, is abandoned. Emmanuel Hoog stated that he had "asked Bernard Pellegrin to rework all the points in his plan" which are contested, "in a time-frame which runs through February". He offered the unions "a new meeting on February 27, on the basis of a reworked document".

This "other document", as Emmanuel Hoog called it, is to be drawn up after a tour of regional AFP bureaus in France that the CEO has asked Bernard Pellegrin to undertake, "not to sell the reform, but to listen to everyone."

Mr. Hoog stated that the editorial organisation of bureaus was "an important element, but not essential" to the planned reform. He thus sought clearly to play down the extent of the concession he was making to the unions and staff, who in fact see the point in question as being at the heart of the plan.

The CEO did not specifically use the word "withdrawal", but said he was leaving the unions "free to interpret" his words. For us it is clear that the current project has been shelved.

2/ The post of head of the francophone Africa desk is to be advertised as of Monday. This concession was not obtained without difficulty, as the CEO asked for a delay. The unions clearly stated their refusal to yield on this specific point.

The said post is not to be a temporary one, but will be advertised in the standard AFP format. However this apparent concession should be seen as no more than a brief respite. Management’s language on the future of the French-speaking Africa desk has been vague, not to say contradictory. The language used has varied from "a plan to bring together the Europe-Africa desk" to an insistence that "the specificity of the editing process for Africa copy will be upheld".

Emmanuel Hoog stated that "no decision has been taken" on a plan to merge the francophone Africa desk with the existing Europe desk and to create a regional office for Africa in Johannesburg, where editing of English-language copy would take place. "Therefore, there is no project," the CEO said. "Management is studying what could be the best solution." As regards the location for a future Africa regional office, Philippe Massonnet evoked the possibility of Nairobi, but did not mention any francophone capitals.

The CEO said that a coming meeting of the works committee would be devoted to plans for Africa, but not on the basis of a specific project.

3/ Union communication channels

Your union representatives stated that management had to stop hindering the process of efficient two-way communication between themselves and AFP staff. This issue includes the presence of staff representative bodies (the unions, plus statutory organs such as the works committee and the health & safety committee) on the ASAP intranet site, the means to let staff worldwide monitor and take part in union general assemblies and the provision of a microphone giving access to the public address system throughout the Paris premises. (Such a microphone existed previously, but was removed when part of the Paris staff moved into the Rue Vivienne offices).

A working group on that issue is to meet this Friday under the chairmanship of Rémi Tomaszewski. The CEO undertook to take account of its recommendations.

Our conclusion: trade union unity in this fight has resulted in victory. But great vigilance is needed to ensure that management follows through on its promises on these issues.

The unions invite all Paris-based staff to a

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11 AT 2:30 PM (1330 GMT) ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE RUE VIVIENNE PREMISES

The joint CFDT, CGT, CFE-CGC, FO, SNJ and SUD unions representing HQ-status staff at AFP. Paris, February 8, 2013