Journalists and technicians from the Euronews channel went on strike on the evening of Thursday, March 16, in reaction to the implementation of the massive layoff plan announced by management, during an extraordinary social and economic council.
According to the unions, the strike was supported by the votes of “a large majority” from a general assembly and is scheduled to last until Monday, March 20, with the possibility of an extension. For striking employees, the plan is not – as management claims – a restructuring, but a “dismantling that calls into question the European channel’s essential vocation.” “This plan eliminates entire sections of our activity, completely calling into question the editorial line of Euronews. The channel’s brand has now been hijacked. International news is no longer the priority of the project that has been imposed on us,” said Marie Jamet, representative of the National Union of Journalists.
Nine months after its takeover by Portuguese investment fund Alpac Capital, the Euronews channel, located in Lyon, is being subjected to a job protection plan (PSE). This plan foresees 197 redundancies from a workforce of 349 permanent employees, according to the latest union count. It would eliminate two-thirds of the editorial staff. Only the French and Russian teams will remain in Lyon, the channel’s headquarters since its creation in 1993.
A loss of 20 million euros in 2022
The building with its futuristic architecture, located on the banks of the Saône, has been for sale since the beginning of the year. In 2022, Euronews posted a loss of around 20 million euros. The redundancy plan aims to “safeguard” the channel so that it remains a “true European media,” said general manager Guillaume Dubois, when justifying the plan to employees on Thursday, March 2. Hoping to return to financial balance “by 2025,” the Euronews management’s proposal aims to create more than one hundred jobs in Brussels, including seventy journalists. Fifty other journalist positions are to be opened in six major European capitals: Berlin, Rome, Madrid, Lisbon, London and Paris.
“There’s no will to rehire current Euronews employees, neither in words nor in deeds,” retorted the statement of the joint unions, believing that “not all positions are being recreated and those that are will be open to external recruitment.” Also, “among those journalists dismissed are Russian and Turkish colleagues who cannot return to their countries under penalty of imprisonment,” the union said.
This industrial action is significantly disrupting the airwaves since news bulletins are not being updated, but replaced by reruns of magazines. The strikers hope to influence the negotiations in order to reduce the number of layoffs planned by management. They’re also seeking to obtain better exit conditions (whether for salaried or freelance employees, those on fixed-term contracts, flexible fixed-term contracts, intermittent workers and technicians), as well as compensation for those who will have to make the transition to become subcontractors, soon to be responsible for the management of broadcasting and production.
Believing that the channel’s management has so far been inflexible to their demands, unions and strikers are now appealing to the highest European authorities. They’re also appealing to each member state leader, alerting them to the social situation at Euronews, and the political significance of this brutal restructuring.
An ‘essential public service’
“At a time when the channel should be celebrating its thirtieth anniversary, and at a point when history encourages us to reinvigorate the European Union in the face of crises and war, the Euronews channel is being dismantled. Every political leader must take a stand and tell us whether to give up and do away with the only international news channel on a European scale. If they no longer want this essential public service, we’ll be out of a job, but they must face up to history,” said hardline CGT union representative Alexis Caraco, speaking to The world.
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The management of Euronews claims that the channel’s vocation lies in following “the news from European institutions.” According to Alexis Caraco, Euronews journalists fear that the European channel is going to lose its informative mission, in favor of “an echo chamber for lobbyists, aimed at the 10,000 technocrats from Brussels organizations.”
The striking employees are particularly appealing to French President Emmanuel Macron. “Do not let an investment fund divert us from our public service mission, do not let it lay off 200 people in France, in the name of an uncertain project,” urged the statement of the channel’s inter-union.