September 2011: Staff Rebuke CEO for His Stance on AFP's Statutes

CEO Emmanuel Hoog is not only actively promoting a new bid to change AFP's statutes: according to reports published by the weekly "Le Canard Enchaîné", he has also asked a PR agency with close links to the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy to give him a hand. Staff have massively approved a censure motion against M. Hoog and his support for a draft law that would change the statutes

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The Story So Far...

In an article entitled "Former Sarkozy aide dispatched to AFP", the "Canard Enchaîné" writes: "In order to promote the reform in question, Hoog has called for help from a young PR firm, Media9. Right on target: the company in question was set up, two years ago, by a certain Pierre Jérôme Henin. Who between June 2007 and March 2009 just happened to be one of Sarko's advisors at the Elysée Palace."

"...On July 1st, Pierre-Jérôme Henin delivered an initial 17-page document to AFP's CEO. It proposes strategies for 'action' and 'lobbying', with the aim of providing support, as soon as the parliament's summer recess is over, for UMP Senator Jacques Legendre's bill. A proposal which would mean major changes to AFP's 1957 statutes."

The document notably states that "AFP's president, Emmanuel Hoog, has asked the Media9 Agency to submit proposals... to help speed up the process of getting the draft law onto the parliament's agenda, to win support for the changes within AFP and push the project in Brussels.".

Noting with regret "internal resistance to change and reform", the Media9 document revealed by "Le Canard" proposes to "win support among staff, consolidate the French political landscape and convince Brussels" that reform of AFP's statutes is on the way.

It suggests "citing the urgency of reform and the need for a public interest mission as levers to win support."

The public relations effort would also involve "using the changes to AFP's governance as an opportunity to give the agency a more youthful image, thereby both creating value and promoting internal serenity."

The document further suggests drawing up "a map of adversaries and allies" and "a charter of talking points." to be pushed by selected "bearers of good news" about AFP.

A letter from Pierre-Jérôme Henin to Emmanuel Hoog released along with the Media9 document estimated the company's bill at over 100,000 euros before tax, for a campaign to run between July 2011 and February 2012.

NB: The text of both documents can be consulted in an article by the "Mediapart" news site. (French only, subscription required).

In a message to staff five days later, on August 22, M. Hoog denied that AFP had signed a contract with "Media9", or that any funds had been paid out to the company.

"The document that has given rise to so much commentary - is one of the many proposals that management receives every day, in a wide range of fields," wrote M. Hoog. "Management did not follow it up." [our translation]


 
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Thursday September 8: Censure Motion: Powerful Rebuke for CEO Emmanuel Hoog

PARIS, 08/09/2011 - Statement by joint AFP headquarters-status trade unions (CGT, SNJ, CFDT, FO, SUD, CGC and SAJ-UNSA)

Herewith the results of the internal staff vote on a censure motion against chief executive Emmanuel Hoog:

Eligible to vote 1,380
Votes cast 797 (57.75%)
In favour 704 (88.33%)
Against 45 (5.65%)
Abstentions 48 (6.02%)

The result signifies a clear and unequivocal rejection of the methods used by the agency's president to push through as quickly as possible the members' bill tabled by a French senator with the aim of undermining AFP's current statutes.

This is shown by the high turn-out and crushing majority in favour of the motion, submitted by the joint CGT, SNJ, CFDT, FO, SUD, CGC and SAJ unions, despite the fact that the vote was held over only 48 hours.

The censure motion notably states that "staff call on the chief executive to immediately cease and desist from his disgraceful dealings against the interests of the agency and its staff, and to abandon all promotion of Senator Legendre's draft law. The latter contains serious threats against the survival, the independence and the image of the agency worldwide."

"Which is why we are casting the present vote to express our censure of the CEO and his methods", the motion concludes.

On the basis of this vote, the joint unions and staff demand that CEO Emmanuel Hoog PUBLICLY MAKE KNOWN BY MIDDAY ON TUESDAY (1000 GMT) AT THE LATEST that in the light of the resolute opposition to his projects, he considers it no long either desirable or opportune that the Legendre draft law be debated by parliament.

We ask that the CEO give a clear and unambiguous reply to this solemn appeal.

The joint unions state that if Emmanuel Hoog fails to take full account of the censure expressed by staff, they will call for a 24-HOUR STRIKE FROM WEDNESDAY TO THURSDAY, as a warning to the AFP board of governors, due to meet on Thursday.

As soon as the CEO's answer has been provided to the joint unions, a STAFF GENERAL ASSEMBLY will take place to decide collectively what further measures should be taken.

The joint unions will also hold a news conference on Tuesday, September 13.

Lastly, the unions have decided to write to the Senate to inform its members of staff's rejection of the draft law currently submitted to them, and to invite them to draw the required conclusions by witholding support from the Legendre proposal in parliament.

Joint AFP trade unions - Paris 08/09/2011


 
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September 6: Censure Motion Submitted to AFP Staff Worldwide

“AFP staff have already clearly stated their rejection of the text of the member's bill tabled in the French parliament by Jacques Legendre, a senator from the ruling UMP party. That text seeks to rush through changes to Agence France-Presse's statutes only months before major political elections in France. Chief Executive Emmanuel Hoog has nevertheless seen fit to seek a new agreement with a firm of lobbyists ("Media9") to try and force through the reform via actions aimed at influencing French lawmakers, the European Union authorities and staff, the better to win adoption of the Legendre bill in parliament.

The CEO's denials regarding the hiring of the company in question, run by someone close to the current French president Nicolas Sarkozy, have been both tardy and confused. M. Hoog's statements have done nothing to allay the indignation of staff over his secret dealings, which have taken place behind the backs of their union representatives.

Firstly because such dealings betray deep disdain for AFP's staff's desire for dialogue and transparency. Staff have been treated as though they counted for nothing, and have even been portrayed as internal "adversaries", as stated in part of the Media9 document revealed by the French press.

Secondly because those dealings are totally foreign to AFP's history, culture, nature and DNA. Far from acting as the defender of the agency's independence and public interest missions, as laid down in its statutes and notably their second article, M. Hoog has engaged in political manoeuvring, placing himself in the forefront of forces seeking to impose a change in those statutes without any broad consensus either in parliament or among staff.

“For the above reasons, staff call on the chief executive to immediately cease and desist from his disgraceful dealings against the interests of the agency and its staff, and to abandon all promotion of Senator Legendre's draft law. The latter contains serious threats against the survival, the independence and the image of the agency worldwide. Which is why we are casting the present vote to express our censure of the CEO and his methods.”

Joint CGT, SNJ, CFDT, FO, SUD, CGC and SAJ trade unions - Paris, Tuesday September 6, 2011


Reactions from Trade Unions and Other Interested Parties

 
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Monday September 12: Joint Unions Step Up Mobilisation, Call For Vote On New Strike

Statement from the joint CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD and CFE-CGC trade unions

Despite the powerful message sent by staff, who voted by a very large majority to support the censure motion, CE Emmanuel Hoog is still ignoring the clearly-expressed demand for him to "cease and desist from his disgraceful dealings against the interests of the agency and its staff".

What staff are asking for is nevertheless perfectly clear: the CEO must abandon all promotion of, and dissociate himself from the draft law submitted in parliament by the UMP senator Jacques Legendre with a view to changing AFP's statutes. We ask him to state that a parliamentary debate on the Legendre draft law, opposed by the great majority of AFP staff members, is neither opportune nor desirable.

In a statement issued last week, the CEO made allegations of computer piracy and harassement without producing any proof, seeking thereby to discredit the movement on the part of staff.

Convening on Monday, the CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD and CFE-CGC unions vowed to uphold and strengthen their united front and to call for a new staff general assembly this Tuesday September 13 at 2:00pm Paris time (1200 GMT) in the first-floor premises on rue Vivienne. The unions had earlier called on the CEO to reply to the demands made in the censure motion, and to dissociate himself from the Legendre draft law, by midday (1000 GMT) on Tuesday.

During the general assembly the unions will call for a 24-hour strike on the wires serving France and French clients (text, photo, video, graphics and multimedia). The strike action is to run from 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) on Wednesday September 14 until the same time on Thursday September 15, which is when the AFP board of governors is due to meet.

At the end of the general assembly, at precisely 3:00 pm (1300 GMT), staff will be asked to vote for or against the strike on a show of hands. All those based in Paris are urged to be present for the vote. Staff in bureaus around France will be invited to vote locally and send in their compiled results via the usual channels.

Joint CGT-SNJ-CFDT-FO-SUD-CFE-CGC trade unions - Paris, Monday September 12, 2011.


 
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August 30: Joint AFP Unions Call for a Staff General Assembly and a Work Stoppage During the Emergency Works Committee Meeting

PARIS, 30/08/2011 - 2029 - Herewith a statement by the joint unions representing HQ status staff at AFP (CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD, CFE-CGC)

The CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD and CFE-CGC unions convened on Tuesday to discuss our reaction to the "Média9 affair", in which we have learned that CEO Emmanuel Hoog has been working to push through major changes to AFP's statutes by calling on the services of a public relations company run by someone close to the current French presidency.

The unions decided to:

  1. Invite Paris-based staff to a general assembly on Thursday September 1 at 2:00pm, in the Rue Vivienne offices. The aim being to inform and mobilise ahead of the extraordinary Works Committee meeting set for Friday, September 2nd. That meeting, which management was obliged by law to convene given that a majority of the committee's elected members demanded it, will seek detailed explanations from the CEO regarding his frequently-stated plans to change AFP's statutes and his related lobbying activities;
  2. Call for a work stoppage by staff working in France for French clients (text, photo, video, graphics and multimedia) on Friday September 2, from 9:00am to 2:00 pm (0700-1200 GMT), during the Works Committee meeting. The aim being to show staff's opposition to the CEO's disloyal manoeuvring and to a planned change of statutes which, as it stands, contains serious threats to both AFP's independence and long-term existence and is also being pushed through without taking the time needed to debate it. No reform of the statutes is possible without strong support from AFP staff and a very broad political consensus in the French parliament.
  3. Report back to staff in a second general assembly at 2:00 pm on Friday, after the works committee meeting.

 

We remind staff that they are allowed to down tools in order to attend a general assembly convened by the unions.

Lastly, the unions have started work on the text of a no-confidence motion, which will be submitted to all headquarters-status staff for their approval.

CGT, CFDT, FO, SNJ, SUD and CFE-CGC unions at AFP, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011

 
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