Only a few days after Presstalis, France’s main newspaper distributor, narrowly escaped bankruptcy, its workers have yet again gone on strike, this time blocking all of the country’s national titles dated Wednesday, October 10 from reaching newsstands.
The Union for Books and Written Communication (SGLCE-CGT) called for Presstalis employees to stop working for 24 hours to protest against a restructuring plan, deemed “unavoidable” by Presstalis management, that is expected to involve cutting 1,250 of the company’s 2,500 jobs.
France’s distribution industry has been hit hard by an estimated 25 percent decline in kiosk sales over the last four years. Presstalis, which is in charge of delivering three quarters of France’s national press including all of the national daily newspapers, is expected to lose between 15 and 20 million Euros this year.
On Friday, after several days of exhaustive negotiations between the government, the struggling company’s shareholders (publishers of newspapers and magazines) and its management, the three groups reached an agreement that allowed it to avoid bankruptcy proceedings.
The government undertook to provide 35 million Euros – 20 million in loans and 15 million in grants – as well as financial guarantees of 60 million Euros over the next two years.
The publishers/shareholders, for their part, agreed to foot slightly higher charges for the distribution of their titles, and the management agreed to carry out and fund the restructuring plan. The mandate of the ad hoc representative who was appointed in November 2011 to help the firm implement the restructuring plan was also extended.
The Presstalis recovery plan is expected to go hand-in-hand with the reform of France’s distribution sector, founded in the wake of the Second World War. The agreement also involves the help of a direct competitor of Presstalis, the Messageries lyonnaises de presse (MLP), which has agreed to contribute up to 25 million Euros to the Presstalis rescue and to industry reforms.
Today’s newspaper draught is an all-too-familiar state of affairs for French news consumers. Since strikes began in December 2011, they have been growing used to finding one, two, or all daily titles missing from the newsstands each morning; a disruption of ritual that risks having lasting effects at a time when print circulation is dwindling as attention spans migrate toward alternative platforms.
Photo courtesy of Damon Green via Flickr Creative Commons