Staff at Le Monde newspapers strike over cuts
The employees of one of France’s most respected newspapers were protesting job losses and the sell-off of several magazines.14 April 2008
PARIS - Staff at Le Monde, one of France's most respected newspapers, were preparing to strike on Monday to protest planned job losses and the sell-off of several magazines.
Journalists and other staff at the daily voted last week for the one-day strike after management set out plans to cut 130 jobs, including up to 90 journalists, in a bid to drag the group back into profit.
The proposals would reduce the group's editorial strength by a quarter.
While some of the job losses would be negotiated as voluntary redundancies, the scale of the cuts meant that others would be forced departures -- a first in the history of the group and one that union leaders have rejected.
Management at the press group say they have been forced to take the drastic measures to counter falling sales, heavy financial losses and mounting debts.
The paper, which has a circulation of about 320,000, has been struggling with losses for years.
It was thrown into further turmoil in December 2007 when its executive board resigned just six months after its election. Its members cited differences with a body controlling the newspaper's finances.
Le Monde's losses for 2007 were EUR 20 million.
But presented with the plan at a general assembly last week, staff voted overwhelmingly for industrial action, said Maurice Hadida, a union leader with the pro-communist CGT.
And colleagues at the newspaper's Internet site (www.lemonde.fr), said they "opposed the publication (on the site) of articles coming from the newspaper" on Monday.
Management said it wanted to sell off several loss-making or "non-strategic" niche publications including Cahiers du Cinema, the celebrated film criticism magazine. Past contributors include writers who went on to become celebrated film directors, such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer.
Le Monde's chief executive, Eric Fottorino, insisted the austerity plan would be carried out in the most "efficient" and "fair" way possible and said he regretted the strike.
But the crisis is a severe blow to what many still regard as France's newspaper of record.
Le Monde was founded in 1944 towards the end of World War II by the campaigning journalist Hubert Beuve-Mery, who edited the newspaper for its first 25 years.
The only previous stoppage was a strike in 1976 in support of another newspaper. Last Thursday, staff on some of the group's magazines went on strike briefly.
But its reputation was challenged by a highly critical book, "The Hidden Face of Le Monde," published in 2003.
In 2004, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Edwy Plenel caused a stir by announcing his resignation after eight years on the job. Plenel now heads a new Internet news site MediaPart, which was launched in March.
Other than the daily Le Monde, the press group controls the French regional newspaper Midi-Libre, the news weekly Courrier International and Le Monde Diplomatique.
[AFP / Expatica]
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