Anyone checking the Météo France website for tomorrow’s avalanche bulletin will have been disappointed today after a general strike of civil servants shut down the service. The strike is against job cuts and wages and aims to protect the ‘public service’.

Whether you can protect a public service by not providing it is open for debate but this could be yet more bad publicity for Météo France. Recently they were forced to rethink charging for four day forecasts on their website, leaving some of the 50,000 people who had paid for the service fuming. The website also features numerous banner adverts leading some to question just what is happening to the funding. A recent documentary by Capital on the French M6 channel showed how private weather services were providing serious competition for Météo France using data made available in the public domain by the Americans. It is true that French civil service salaries are low and the government has been examining how to cut costs in the service which employs some 3,700 civil servants especially as the agriculture ministry has its own parallel weather service and long range European forecasts are prepared by a team of 100 in the UK. Unlike the private sector civil servants also have protected job status.

The preparation of avalanche bulletins is labour intensive involves around 250 daily observations on the ground. However at believe that whatever the issues a minimum service, beyond the issuing of alerts, should be provided for a resource on which lives may depend.

Posted by davidof on Friday, 21 January, 2005 at 12:09 AM

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