Journalists and technicians at the TV network France 24 have staged a walkout, accusing their employers of reneging on a deal on working conditions.
More than 120 staff at the news channel stopped work for 24 hours on Thursday and picketed its headquarters in protest at what they claimed was the company’s refusal to implement a 2015 agreement addressing “unsociable and unhealthy” hours.
“Most of us at France 24 have never been on strike before in our entire lives and it’s been a difficult thing to do,” said a representative from the CFTC union, who did not want to be named.
“In just over 10 years the station has been operating, there has been one strike, but this is the first across the whole service. We have technicians and journalists out here with us. People are just so fed up and exhausted.”
Another striker said staff were angry at France 24 for allegedly going back on the 2015 agreement aimed at reducing hours for staff.
“It was the company that came up with the agreement and everyone had to sign it. Research [showed] that people doing night or early morning shifts were more likely to be ill, so they suggested we went down from an eight to a seven-day fortnight,” the striker said.
“We all signed because it was true that people were going down with weird allergies and other serious health problems, but when it came to implementing the deal, the management suddenly went back on it. Now they’re pushing individuals to sign amended clauses in their contracts accepting the 2015 while at the same time reneging on parts of it. It’s a mess.”
Staff said they had warned the station they would pull the plug on news programmes last Friday. They had an emergency three-hour meeting with management on Monday evening.
“They came up with nothing,” said the CFTC representative. “They ask us to do more and more without giving us the resources in terms of money or people.”
A statement from France Médias Monde, the TV station’s parent group, said it would be considering a reorganisation of the editorial team after the audiovisual watchdog, the CSA, confirmed that the group’s president, Marie-Christine Saragosse would be staying in her job. A spokesman said most of the points raised by the journalists had been addressed or would be addressed.
France 24 began broadcasting in 2006 and aimed to be France’s answer to international TV stations such as BBC World and CNN. It broadcasts in French, English and Arabic.
In 2010, France 24 was at the centre of a power struggle between two chiefs in what the newspaper Libération described as the “battle of the bosses”, while staff and unions complained of an ongoing “malaise” at the heart of the editorial operation that they said had left journalists overworked, underpaid and badly treated.
One journalist said at the time: “France 24 is like a medieval king’s court. People have patrons: you’re so and so’s guy or you’re so and so’s. It’s all about alliances.” Another spoke of a “sweatshop atmosphere”. On Thursday, France 24 staff suggested that little had changed since then.