Quelle aventure!

This was the headline on the front page of last Saturday’s edition of the French regional paper Nice-Matin celebrating the successful outcome of the struggle to save their jobs at the paper by turning it into a workers’ coop.

You may have read my blogs here on the Nice-Matin story earlier in the Autumn. The paper had been driven into liquidation by its previous owners and although several other bids were received by the liquidator all the others would have involved swingeing cuts to the workforce. The cooperative sought funds partly through a successful crowdfunding initiative.

As the group say to their supporters, one battle over, another is starting: “We’ve got to succeed. For ourselves. For you. To prove the point. To silence the sceptics. So… to work! But for the moment, we’re taking a deep breath and savouring the moment”.

(That’s my translation; feel free to do better yourself. The link is here.)

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Crowdfunding may help French daily paper become a coop

I’m interested in a story which is just breaking in France, where journalists and other staff at the regional daily newspaper Nice-Matin are successfully tapping into crowdfunding to raise money for a potential cooperative take-over of their title.

The French press is in as much of a mess as the British.  Nice-Matin (the main daily for the Med coast in the Nice area) is currently in receivership, reportedly losing EUR 500,000 a month.  Various commercial media interests are expressing interest in buying the title, but only on the basis of major compulsory redundancy programmes which could shave perhaps a third off the current workforce tally of 1180.

Is there a better – a cooperative – answer?  François Roubaud, one of the journalists (and one of the union reps at the company) hopes that there is.  He has been the leading light behind the idea to work for an employee-based takeover of the newspaper (which also includes sister titles in Corsica and the Var region), which would be registered under French worker cooperative legislation as a SCOP (Société coopérative et participative).  There’s been a lot of this going on recently in France:  I researched recently for a client the stories behind the successful worker takeovers of the Auvergne textile firm Fontanille, formerly a family-run business,  and the print company Hélio-Corbeil, and I’ve also blogged here about the conversion of the Channel ferry service formerly run by Seafrance into a SCOP.  All these cooperative buy-outs were strongly aided by the trade unions.

The Nice-Matin workers are appealing on the crowdfunding website Ulele for EUR 300,000, and last time I looked had successfully got to the half-way stage.  The crowdfunding is part of a much larger recapitalisation plan, which includes a major investment by the employees (around four hundred employees are committing to investing EUR 3500 each) and by the regional cooperative association URSCOP, as well as by external investors and the banks.

I have written a news story for Co-operative News about the Nice-Matin developments and will draw it to your attention when it is published. In the meantime, the piece I wrote for the Guardian last year on proposals for cooperatively-run local newspapers in Britain is still available online.

If you have the odd few euros available, Nice-Matin’s Ulele website is at http://www.ulule.com/sauvons-nicematin/