No national daily newspapers were published in France today, due to an ongoing labor conflict between the newspapers and the SGLCE-CGT, a.k.a. CGT du Livre, which is the trade union/guild that enjoys a closed shop monopoly of representation of the employees of Presstalis, the company that distributes three-fourths of the press in France to news kiosks. The conflict is over a necessary, inevitable plan to restructure Presstalis—which cannot turn a profit even in the best of times and would have gone bankrupt years ago were it not for public subsidies—and that will involve the loss of some 1,250 jobs. Yes, it’s really tough to lose one’s job, particularly these days, but I have no sympathy whatever for the striking militants of the CGT du Livre, who are scandalously overpaid, enjoy privileges and benefits that even cadres can only dream of, and whose union is one of the most selfish and destructive in the world (and I say this as someone who almost reflexively supports union struggles in the private sector). The CGT du Livre is selfish and destructive because it manifestly has no qualms whatever in pushing French daily newspapers and the news kiosks that sell them over the edge into bankruptcy, an edge on which many are presently teetering. The CGT du Livre seeks to maintain its status and privileges regardless of the economic context or changes in technology that are transforming the print media worldwide. If its status and privileges are unaffordable, then let the state (i.e. French taxpayer) pay for them. And if the CGT du Livre’s demands are not met, then it will pull the press and news kiosk owners—many of whom barely make the minimum wage—down with them.
Today’s non publication of the Paris press—all titles of which have been hit by rolling strikes over the past few months—was decided by the newspapers themselves, as CGT du Livre goons are blocking the exits of the printing presses. Such an action would not only be illegal in just about every other country but is in France as well. Riot police could well intervene and remove the goons but decline to do so when so requested by the newspapers—and the latter decline to file lawsuits against the CGT du Livre—, as the risk of worsening the conflict and provoking sympathy strikes (legal in France but not in most other democracies) would be high.
I’m letting off steam here, as I am quite indignant about this and have been so for some time now. I am also using the occasion to link to the analysis of the French press and the CGT du Livre I wrote in August 2011. For background on all this—and in English, of which there is practically nothing—, my post is where to go.
Also indignant, indeed angry, over the CGT du Livre’s strike is economic journalist Dominique Seux, who gave this very good editorial on France Inter this morning.