The Louette Plan Must be Withdrawn, Says the French CGT Journalists' Union

October 27, 2009 : "There are ways to let AFP develop within the framework of the 1957 statutes," says the Journalists' Union of the General Labour Confederation, France's biggest labour group.

Herewith a partial translation of the statement, which can be found in French on the SNJ-CGT web site at http://www.snj.cgt.fr/spip/spip.php?article197

The Louette Plan for AFP Must Be Withdrawn

"Lacking support inside the company, AFP CEO Pierre Louette is hoping his salvation will come from elsewhere, and notably from compliant media outlets. The aim being to push through his plan to turn AFP into a 100% state-owned company. He has recently been given a boost thanks to a media blitz by several newspapers and a radio station, which let him express himself freely while deliberately neglecting to give a fair say to company staff members and the unions who are against his plans.

The media campaign, which gave our CEO free rein even on the state-owned France Culture radio station, was in fact set up by a PR company.

.../... One of the articles, in the Sunday paper Journal du DImanche on October 18, even bore the triumphant headline: "The New AFP Is Up and Running", while Luc Evrard, who has a business slot on the popular Europe-1 radio station, stated baldly on October 22 that AFP was "a judicial UFO", concluding his piece by saying "AFP is going go get new statutes".

Such bluster shows that there is deep concern among the agency's top management over a project which is not only extremely unpopular within AFP, but is also beginning to raise serious doubts in government, including in the ruling UMP party.

In the National Assembly - the lower house of the French parliament - the vice president of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the UMP deputy Michel Herbillon, admitted recently that there was "a lot of resistance and opposition to the reform being planned" by Pierre Louette. And speaking before the same committee, Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand himself said he wanted to "take a bit of time" before making a decision on AFP

Shortly before that, a former CEO of the agency, Claude Moisy, wrote an opinion piece in the daily Le Monde to express his reservations about both his successor and his plans. Agence France-Presse was "a truly hybrid company, which should not exist in a market economy, but which has nevertheless been functioning for the past fifty-two years," Moisy wrote. If the French state "wants AFP to retain its place in the world, it should shoulder its responsibilities," he concluded.

The SNJ-CGT supports the struggle being waged by AFP's staff and trade unions, which are opposing a purely ideological reform of the company's statutes aimed at turning AFP into a 100% state-owned firm with the legal structure of a joint-stock company. The said changes being in fact a mere prelude to a privatisation, as is the case with the French postal service, La Poste.

There are ways to let AFP develop within the framework of the 1957 statutes, which have been called 'The Statutes of Liberty'. A round table conference should be convened to discuss them; the CGT will contribute to that process.

Last but not least, the CGT journalists' union expresses its support for the struggle being waged by staff and unions against insecure and temporary labour contracts at AFP.

Montreuil, October 27, 2009

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