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Strike Has Begun At RFO Radio, Television

PAPE'ETE, Feb 25 (OFO) - A "roving" strike has begun at French Polynesia's state-owned Réseau France Outremer (RFO, France Overseas Network) radio and television station over understaffing issues, daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reports on Friday.

Journalists and technicians from the station are protesting against the implementation as of February 1st of a 35-hour working week, which, they

claim, leaves the station unable to cover all the shifts.

The move also means all staff now have another 20 working days per year struck off their load.

The 35-hour week was implemented in all 10 RFO stations worldwide. Talks had begun on Thursday with the Paris-based headquarters management, which had committed itself to employ four more staff for the French Polynesian station, but failed : the unions are demanding three more recruitments and have not called off the strike.

Negotiations are made more difficult by the significant time difference between Paris and Pape'ete.

Unlike other RFO stations around the world, French Polynesia has to provide a bilingual service : French and Tahitian, French Polynesia's two official languages.

The first two days of strike showed a strong support from the staff, with some 80 per cent following the action.

"We never got that kind of support before", Teva Pambrun, spokesman for the unions, said.

Union representatives say the negotiations with the management are conducted in a "healthy" spirit.

"We are sure that listeners and viewers will understand that this action

aims at promoting employment in French Polynesia in order to better provide our service to the public", the unions (A Tia I Mua, CFDT/SNJ/CFTC/CSTPFO) said Friday in a release.

RFO-French Polynesia currently employs some 40 journalists who have to produce radio and television news in both languages for a 220,000 inhabited territory scattered on a surface as big as Europe.

"In New Caledonia, for instance, there are 44 journalists but they only have to work in one language (French)", the union points out.

Meanwhile, screens for both RFO channels (Tempo and Télé-Polynésie) remain blank in the French territory.

+++niuswire

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