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“Long” strike at Météo France: the unions’ revolt against the automation of forecasts

Storm warning from Météo-France.

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“Long” strike at Météo France: the unions’ revolt against the automation of forecasts

Storm warning from Météo-France. Employees of the national meteorology and climatology service have been on strike since Sunday, following a strike notice filed by three representative unions on November 28. The mobilization, which runs from December 4 to January 7, “concerns all Météo France employees”. In a joint press release, Solidaires-Météo, SNM-CGT and SNITM-FO announced a “long” walkout, in response to the “deep discomfort of forecasters”.

At issue is the new organization established within the public agency, called the “Production Forecast Program”. It would aim, according to the unions, “to centralize and automate the provision of data present on the website and the application”. If computers have always automatically created written bulletins and forecasts for the Météo-France site, these are no longer systematically verified by forecasters. Upon arrival, many “errors” would remain in the service’s publications. “The new forecast chain is not sufficiently robust, sometimes giving aberrant results on all kinds of weather situations and on non-modifiable deadlines, ultimately extending the duration of the expertise,” criticizes the inter-union in its press release. In addition to the damage to the service provided to Météo-France users and customers, these serial “bugs” would also be harmful to the health of agents, subject to “stress” and “anxiety”.

This is not the first time that staff representatives have expressed their concerns about the “Production Forecast Program”. Monday, November 13, during the official launch of the program, the three unions had already called on employees to strike. The movement did not affect the production of vigilance bulletins, at a time when several departments were on orange alert for floods. This time, the unions hope that the mobilization will have greater scope. “We remind senior management that they have the opportunity to take steps to ensure the safety and mental health of employees,” they write. “It is necessary to put in place an emergency plan to limit the effects of the program,” they insist.

Beyond the new organization in force, staff members especially point to the “lack of resources” within the public agency. Its workforce has in fact melted like snow in the sun in recent decades. “We have lost around 30% of staff in around fifteen years, and around 475 positions in five years”, indicates to our colleagues from France 3, Jérôme Lartisant, general secretary of Force Ouvrière within the establishment. “Météo France no longer has the means to operate,” he maintains. As a reminder, the public service employs around 2,590 people, including around 1,000 on the Toulouse site. During her hearing in Parliament in October, the CEO of Météo-France, Virginie Schwarz, assured “that it was no longer possible to envisage further reductions in staff numbers” and that the objective of her mandate was, on the contrary, to “increase the numbers” of the establishment. It now remains to be seen whether the forecasters' complaints will be heard by management.

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