French public radio strike rumbles on after talks fail

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 05, 2015 11:26 AM

PARIS (Reuters) - The longest strike in a decade at France's public radio broadcaster has left paralyzed news stations playing music and shows no sign of ending after weekend talks failed to defuse a standoff over cost cuts.

Radio France chief Mathieu Gallet has warned the group could run out of money within months if no measures are taken, and said the strike is costing 1 million euros a week.

The 18-day-old dispute at Radio France stems from concerns over job losses and service reductions aimed at reining in a budget deficit expected to reach 21 million euros ($23 million) this year.

The strike has added to the headaches of Francois Hollande's unpopular Socialist government. It has decided to keep its level of grant to Radio France unchanged over the next three years and has called on the broadcaster to cut spending.

In talks on Saturday, management offered not to merge the group's orchestras, one potential cost-saving measure, but did not address other concerns, unions at Radio France said in a statement.

Gallet has set a target of 50 million euros in savings over the 2015-19 period and proposed cutting 200 to 300 jobs through voluntary redundancies, out of a staff of some 4,900.

His relations with staff have deteriorated since press revelations last month that renovation work in his office cost 100,000 euros.

"Radio France management has still not fully grasped the situation," the unions said, reiterating their current strike call that runs until Tuesday morning.

Radio France runs national stations France Info, France Inter and France Culture, as well as a network of local outlets. The strike has taken many programs off the air and seen gaps filled by extended musical interludes.

In a report this week, the state auditor criticized spiraling costs at Radio France, including an expected doubling in the budget of decade-old renovation work at the broadcaster's building overlooking the river Seine in western Paris.

It said the group should follow the example of other public broadcasters such as Britain's BBC which have reorganized their operations in recent years.

($1 = 0.9111 euros)

(Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Gregory Blachier; editing by Jason Neely)