Big discomfort in the Lorraine newspapers

A 48-hour strike was voted at Le Républicain Lorrain (Metz), a 24-hour walkout at L’Est Républicain (Nancy, Besançon) and at Vosges Matin (Epinal), all three of which belong to the EBRA group (Crédit Mutuel).

“This morning, we voted to strike for 48 hours. We can’t take it anymore, the services are exhausted, people are tired, stressed, the pressure is unrelenting. We can’t go on like this. Catherine Belin, SNJ union delegate at the editorial office of Le Républicain Lorrain, expresses the feelings of all the staff of the Metz daily newspaper, which met this Tuesday morning in a joint union meeting (CFDT, SNJ, CFE-CGC, FO and Filpag-CGT). She continued: “We have been alerting management for years. To no avail. We simply want to do our work calmly, without being stressed, without getting sick, without suffering the permanent pressure that weighs on employees, journalists and non-journalists alike.

The limits of restructuring

As a newspaper of the EBRA group (10 titles in 23 departments of the East, Burgundy and Rhône-Alpes regions), owned by the Banque Fédérative du Crédit Mutuel, the Républicain Lorrain employs 246 people, including 114 journalists (permanent and temporary), for a total circulation of about 84,000 copies per day.
The malaise, particularly within the editorial staff, is not new. Already, in October 2019, the staff of the daily newspaper in Metz was concerned about the “dismemberment” of their newspaper. They had made it known noisily by distributing leaflets in the streets of the city, but also in the local branches of the Crédit Mutuel very established in Moselle.
The restructuring of the press division of the Banque Fédérative du Crédit Mutuel, and especially of the Lorraine and Franc-Comtois newspapers (Le Républicain Lorrain, l’Est Républicain and Vosges Matin), which began in 2019, has now reached its limits. Its objective was to “reduce the fixed charges of the titles”, to achieve “better productivity and competitiveness” to “allow the press division to remain sustainable” declared Valérie Noël, HR Director of the group, to the press.

“The “ball in the belly”

This tightening of the screws has resulted in unprecedented pressure on staff. Sometimes to the point of breaking down: depression, burn-out, sick leave and conflicts between employees have become commonplace. The health crisis has not helped. “We come to work with our stomachs in knots,” one employee discreetly admits.
The hierarchy is obviously aware of this. But they themselves are required to be accountable. And the figures are not very good. And the figures are not very good: drop in circulation, drop in advertising… The “print” press is in a bad way.

At L’Est Républicain too

The situation is not much happier at L’Est Républicain. We are asked to do more and more with less and less,” explains Julien Bénéteau, CFDT union delegate for the editorial staff (200 journalists). This is no longer possible. We are managed on a permanent just-in-time basis. Today, there is a big mobilization of journalists, I hope we will be heard!
Same sound of bell on the side of Besançon. “There’s a general feeling of fed up,” says Eric Barbier, SNJ delegate for the Est Républicain. We denounce the deteriorating working conditions and the tensions that this causes. The health of employees is affected by the austere policy and contempt of management. It pretends not to see, too locked in its financial dogma. However, the quality of life at work, the “living together” within the companies, documents that we signed in December with the management, was just a smoke screen. We want to get out of this negative spiral.
The Nancy newspaper, which has a circulation of around 100,000 copies a day, is also losing ground.
The strike call also concerns the staff of Vosges Matin, in Épinal, where the mobilization is less important than in Nancy, Metz and Besançon.
We will have to wait until this Wednesday morning, March 30, 2022, to know if readers will find their favorite daily newspaper in their mailboxes.

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