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Inflation, wages: Management’s offer won’t even buy a baguette

Wednesday 11 October 2023

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As France reels from historic levels of inflation with food prices now rising 9.6% on an annual basis, AFP’s management has finally revealed its measures to help defend the purchasing power of its staff… We’ll have to wait until mid-2024 to have a permanent wage hike that works out to just 96 cents per day for the median salary. Not even enough to buy a baguette!

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Management met on October 6 with trade unions to respond to our demands submitted at the start of the annual wage talks (NAO) two weeks ago. We presented a united front in requesting a 5% hike in wages and stringer rates, additional seniority bonus levels and the introduction of a sustainable transport allocation.

Here are management’s main responses:

  • A one-shot “Macron bonus” of €500 gross for the first half of 2024, paid in 2023 to benefit from tax exemptions.
  • General wage hike of 0.7% (including for stringers) from July 1, 2024.
  • Sustainable transport allocation of €100 per year.

This “offer” would cement 2023 being a lost year for AFP staff in terms of permanent wage hikes. This when many French companies ─ including in the media sector ─ have give considerable wage hikes to help their staff cope with inflation. (See our previous statement: Inflation, wages: after the party, watch out for the hangover!)

A great deal ─ for management

Management’s miserliness is even more surprising given that it has obtained an additional €6.7 million for 2024 from the French state which has agreed to increase its public interest mission (MIG) subsidy as well as its subscriptions as part of the new Aims and Means Contract (COM) for 2024-2028.

Of this €6.7 million, French contract staff are being allocated €700,000 for the Macron bonus and €350,000 for the wage hike for the second half of 2024. In short one million out of 6.7. A great deal!

Management will be able to continue to present itself as a model student before the French state (and its representatives on the Board of Governors which elects the CEO), which seems to worry more about its financial “trajectory” than the well-being of staff.

But this story is not new: we’re in the third act of a tragedy that began in 2022. After the first brutal wave of inflation triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine management offered staff an additional €70 per month gross it said was to help staff cope with the urgent situation, in particular those with low salaries. This narrative was bought by some, who insinuated that we’d insist on getting considerable wage hikes later. Just wait!

Act 2 played out earlier this year, with inflation still running hot. Management continued to refuse a general wage hike, saying it needed to put on a good show as it renegotiated the COM with the French state and the re-authorization of our public interest funding with Brussels. So despite leaving empty handed some continued to believe we’d eventually get a raise that would help us recover our lost purchasing power… Be patient!

And now, act 3: management has negotiated a considerable increase in state funding of around 5%. Yet this is just a fraction of the cumulative inflation for the 2019-2023 period. The figures for our rising costs due to inflation used in the negotiations were under-valued, not having included the wage hikes we should have received since 2022. Now, management says that the Agency needs to face new challenges and requires investments so only a fraction of the additional state funding can go to raising wages.

The lesson: patience doesn’t always pay off! It is staff who will have absorb this 5% annual inflation if nothing changes.

Avoid a new loss in purchasing power

AFP’s staff have even more reason to stand up as management is about to set us on a financial trajectory for the coming five years. After the €6.7 million bump in 2024, we’ll only get small increases in subsequent years under the COM. Management now has its trump card to refuse any wage hikes through 2028.

For SUD, the offer of a 0.7% general wage hike is scandalous! It sets in stone a loss in purchasing power for the previous years and probably for the years to come. We need to bring a stop to staff purchasing power being squeezed to ensure AFP’s budget is contained at levels that please the French state.

We need to stop putting our trust in management to get the funding it needs to give us proper cost of living adjustments. It is clear management won’t ask the French state for more money unless we force it to. The choice is ours.

The next negotiation session is October 19.

Paris, October 11, 2023
SUD-AFP (Solidarity-Unity-Democracy)