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Consensus Lacking on AFP Reform Projects: We Won’t Give an Inch

Monday 15 December 2014

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Statement by FO and SUD (all categories) SGLCE-CGT, SNJ-CGT, CFE-CGC trade unions

A significant number of AFP staffers observed the call by the CGT, FO, SUD and CFE-CGC trade unions to strike on December 10 and 11, both in Paris and across France. The disruption caused by the 24-hour stoppage clearly caught management by surprise. The strike was a clear repudiation of CEO Emmanuel Hoog, who when asked in an interview with Le Figaro about labor-management relations within AFP, claimed that the situation at the agency was "quite calm".

Now no-one can claim that there is a consensus on the projects underway, which involve changes to AFP’s statutes, the creation of an investment/debt subsidiary, a new Aims and Means Contract with the state, and France’s 2015 budget. These projects are the result of an opaque process and are being imposed without widespread support from staff. Above all they are backed by a threat aimed at killing all transparent debate: that if they are not put into place by the end of March 2015, the European Commission may punish France for having provided state aid to AFP in contravention of EU competition rules.

What a contrast with the exemplary democratic process which resulted in the 1957 law that created AFP in its present form! That document was adopted unanimously by the French parliament and approved by 82 percent of AFP’s staff in an internal vote!

Faced with opposition from our four trade unions—which gleaned a total of 62 percent of votes cast in the recent staff elections, including support from many journalists—plus a 24-hour strike, management has so far dug in its heels. Far from acting as a unifying force, the proposals are disorientating and dividing AFP.

Take for example the Board of Governors meeting last week. The representative of the agency’s technical and administrative staff took on board the views of the opposition movement and voted against both the 2015 budget and the creation of the “technical subsidiary”. Meanwhile the journalists’ representative abstained on the budget vote and voted in favor of the subsidiary. All of the CEO’s projects were approved by the Board by a large majority.

On the same day, the parliamentary bill drafted by lawmaker Michel Françaix on changing AFP’s statutes was approved in committee. This shows that our appeals to lawmakers did not achieve the desired result.

We need a real debate about the options for AFP!

These dangerous projects are advancing in spite of the internal divisions at AFP. However the undersigned trade unions do not intend to give an inch. We’ll step up our efforts to engage and persuade, including in political circles, on the basis of our open letter to French lawmakers. And we will also call on staff to mobilize in defense of AFP at critical moments.

Paris, 15 December 2014
FO and SUD (all categories) SGLCE-CGT, SNJ-CGT, CFE-CGC trade unions