From the memory of a CNES engineer, Julien had never experienced such mobilization. The National Center for Space Studies is currently going through an unprecedented social conflict. In Toulouse, several hundred employees went on strike on Thursday April 14. A massive mobilization (and extremely rare) at the call of an inter-union, which also concerns the centers in Paris and Kourou in Guyana. Engineers, technicians and administrative staff denounce the new contract of objectives which has just been formalized by the government. With the key, according to them, the abandonment of part of space research to the private sector.
About 600 employees who stop work, this represents more than a third of the site’s workforce. “Of course, I’ve been at CNES for a number of years now and I’ve never seen this, says Julian. It shows that the staff of the CNES really fed up, that somewhere, drops of water have really made the vases overflow. Starting with salary increases that do not compensate for inflation, but also and above all with the signing of the new objectives and performance contract designed by the government to define the next four years.
Damien Desroches is a CGT delegate engineer and very unhappy with the content of this contract. “The overall line that we hear a lot about is subsidiarity. This means that, basically, CNES should no longer do, should no longer carry out, and should delegate as much as possible to industry. To make us become a simple financing agency, that is to say that our role would be to give money to industrialists without any control.” With in particular the instruction given to the CNES to invest 1.5 billion euros in the private sector and start-ups.
“The classic example, continues Damien Desroches, it’s Elon Musk. We want to create the new Space X, etc. Elon Musk, he arrived with his billions from the sale of PayPal. He said: I put so much money into space and I’m going to make the new launchers of tomorrow. Here it is the opposite. It is public money. We arrive with our money, we give it with a blank check, to people who we know do not currently have the technical skills to do so. And we tell them: deal with that and then we’ll see each other again in five years. And then, if in five years, the start-up sank, it sank. And the public money, it will have been spent.”
Public money that ends up missing for researchers in the CNES and which is already causing the cessation of certain projects. “The consequence is that there are space projects that stop, for lack of funding. We even have projects in partnership with other countries and cooperation that have stopped. There was a project that was to measure the salinity of the oceans, Smos-Next, the continuation of a previous mission. And it was stopped for reasons that, in large part, are financial.”
To make their anger and disagreement heard, the employees of the CNES say they are ready to harden the movement and go on strike again.