The movement, extremely rare in a house traditionally discreet and little inclined to protest, was launched by six unions and a collective of 500 young diplomats.
Several dozen of them even gathered Thursday in front of their prestigious ministry in Paris, brandishing signs on which one could read “diplo in extinction”, “public service in danger”, “diplomats on strike”…
After a series of reforms, that of the senior civil service, which will have consequences on diplomatic careers, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Wanted by President Emmanuel Macron, in particular to put an end to “administrative castes”, the reform programs the “extinction” by 2023 of the two historic corps of diplomacy, creates a new body of the State and provides that senior civil servants will no longer be attached to a specific administration and may change during their career.
The strikers believe they are not “interchangeable” and fear the end of the professionalization of French diplomacy, the third largest network in the world behind the United States and China.
“You don’t become a diplomat overnight,” insists Ambassador Marcel Escure, 35 years old, one of the few to give his name during the rally in front of the ministry, Quai d’Orsay in Paris.
But the discontent had been mounting for several years: “The piling up of reforms, the continuous decline in resources, leads to fatigue and disarray of the staff”, explains the diplomat and trade unionist of the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC), Olivier Da Silva.
“We have an extremely heavy workload, we don’t count our hours, because we are very, very proud to do this job. But there is a feeling of unease, we have the impression of not being listened to enough” , summarizes Jean-Baptiste, 28-year-old editor at the UN management.
A speech taken up by other young diplomats – invoking their duty of reserve to remain anonymous – having invested a lot in learning Turkish or Chinese, or working “night and day” in the Ukraine-Russia zone.
– Movement on twitter –
Unprecedented fact, many high-ranking diplomats, ambassadors, regional directors, have been posting their support for the movement on Twitter for several days, under the hashtag
Some, like the ambassadors of Kuwait Claire Le Flécher of Oman Véronique Aulagnon, or the ambassador to Nicaragua Brieuc Pont, have declared themselves to be on strike. Others, such as the ministry’s director of political affairs, Philippe Errera, retweeted a column recently published by the collective of young diplomats.
Ambassadors and consular agents have the right to strike but “naturally, we will never threaten the protection of our compatriots and our interests”, specified Mr. Da Silva.
“Just a strike is already an event in itself”, he adds, evoking a “cry of alarm”. “Our ministry is damaged, it must be repaired”. The unions and the collective are calling for the organization of diplomatic meetings.
The previous strike at the Quai d’Orsay dates back to 2003.
The mobilization figures were not known Thursday evening.
But the new Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, a career diplomat, will receive trade unions and representatives of the movement on June 7, “with a view to responding to the concerns expressed and examining the means necessary for a modern, efficient, professional diplomacy, at the service of the French,” said the Quai d’Orsay on Thursday evening.
“The concern is real, the staff are tired”, we recognize from a source close to the file, stressing that the social movement intervenes in a “very difficult context”: more than two years of Covid, successions of crises, evacuations of Kabul after the Taliban victory in August 2021 through the war in Ukraine, the expulsions of diplomats by Russia, the crisis with Mali…
About 13,500 agents (permanent, contractual, local recruitments, etc.) are employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to official figures.