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Month-long strike at French public broadcaster ends

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-04-15

The longest strike in a decade at France’s public broadcaster Radio France ended Wednesday when the last union involved in the action accepted a compromise reform plan and voted to return to work.

The month-long strike ended when the CGT (Confédération générale du travail) on Wednesday joined four other trade unions that had previously accepted a compromise deal.

Normal broadcasting is set to resume Thursday at 1 pm local time.

The latest strike at Radio France broke out on March 19 over a management bid to cut costs and implement lay-offs at the French public broadcaster, which includes several news radio stations and two orchestras.

Controversial refurbishments

Much of the acrimony over the past month has been focused on the persona of Mathieu Gallet, the new head of the Maison ronde (Round house), as Radio France’s headquarters is popularly known.

With the government scrambling to cut costs across the board, Gallet was tasked with plugging a 21-million-euro hole in Radio France’s budget, 90 percent of which is covered by French taxpayers.

Opposition to Gallet hardened when it emerged that the Radio France chief had spent 100,000 euros refurbishing his office. He swiftly apologised, noting that his office contained historic woodwork. But allegations he hired an image consultant to the tune of 90,000 euros a year gave his critics further ammunition.

Gallet’s office was not the only part of the Maison ronde in need of a costly upgrade. The 1960s riverside structure is both Radio France’s most recognised asset and the source of many of its woes.

A major revamp of the Paris landmark, in part to get rid of asbestos, has already cost more than 400 million euros – twice the initial estimate. With reconstruction far from over, the final bill may well reach 600 million euros.

Round-the-clock tunes

A well-loved institution, Radio France is broadly acclaimed for its diverse programming and thorough, professional news coverage. Over the past month though, Radio France’s service has been disrupted, with the public broadcaster playing round-the-clock music instead of their usual programmes.

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 cost-cutting effort is part of a broader government bid to encourage hiring and reduce state spending. But the protracted strike at 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2015-04-15

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