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Strike called to protest lay-off plans

Article published on the 2009-05-07 Latest update 2009-05-07 10:30 TU

RFI employees on strike.(Photo:

RFI employees on strike.

Four of Radio France International’s five trade unions are calling on all employees to walk-off the job next Tuesday, demanding the scrapping of a management plan which would see the international radio network lose nearly a quarter of its workforce.

The “plan to save employment”, announced by the new management at RFI in January, proposes laying off 206 out of just under 1,000 employees, in an effort to "modernise" the station.

The plan also mentions the possibility of hiring 34 new people once the firings have been completed.

The unions have already called four 24-hour strikes to protest the plan. Several of them have also brought management to court to attempt to have the plan thrown out for technical violations of labour law, so far unsuccessfully.

Management has called the unions'  latest move, which dubs the plan discriminatory, "curious" and have called on them to "adopt a constructive attitude". 

Six of RFI's foreign-language services, German, Polish, Romanian, Albanian, Laotian and Serbo-Croatian, will be shut down by the plan. Four others, Persian, Chinese, Russian and Vietnamese will have their broadcasts moved entirely online, a move unions object to, citing internet censorship in the destination countries.

RFI currently broadcasts in 20 languages, with only one, Turkish, exclusively on the web.

The English service is the only service which is not threatened with job losses.

RFI management says that the language services are outdated and were part of a Cold War effort to bring uncensored voices beyond the Iron Curtain in eastern Europe and south-east Asia. It has indentified Africa as its new target audience.

The journalists in the foreign-language services have circulated a petition pointing out the continued importance of their broadcasts. The petitions have received more than 2,000 signatures, including several French and European intellectuals and politicians such as film-maker Roman Polanski, French writer Michel Tournier and Socialist European MP Vincent Peillon.

One of the unions, CFDT, has broken from the others and called on workers to negotiate individual voluntary departures to reduce the number of firings.

Tuesday’s strike is planned to be indefinite.