Protracted French radio strike shows challenges of reform

AP News
Posted: Apr 15, 2015 8:32 AM
Protracted French radio strike shows challenges of reform

PARIS (AP) — Unions and the government are nearing agreement on the future of France's national radio company after a 28-day strike that exemplifies the challenges of loosening up labor rules.

Broadcasts resumed Wednesday morning and staff at state-run Radio France met to discuss next steps. On Tuesday, four of five unions voted to return to work after progress on a compromise reform plan.

Unions at Radio France, which includes several news radio stations and two orchestras, are fighting cost cuts and layoffs.

Radio France chief Mathieu Gallet — very unpopular following media reports last month that the renovation of his office cost 100,000 euros ($106,000) — explained earlier this year that he expects a budget deficit of 21 million euros in 2015.

Gallet notably proposed to cut 300 to 380 jobs through a voluntary departure plan, according to unions.

The details of the cost cuts have not been publicly released.

The reform focuses on structural issues and job cuts, but management is not talking about cutting benefits such as vacation that can be up to 68 days for some journalists, bonuses and a generous extra-pay policy for overtime hours and night shifts.

Radio France currently employs 4,300 people in national stations such as France Info and France Inter and 44 local stations around the country.

The cuts come amid broader government efforts to encourage hiring and reduce state spending. The Radio France battle has shown how hard it is to reduce worker benefits and protections seen by many in France as major accomplishments of the 20th century.