Cannes film fest under threat from show workers

6th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - The Cannes film festival, due to open next week, on Thursday braced for possible disruptions by angry French arts workers after they rejected a government plan to settle a row over unemployment benefits.

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - The Cannes film festival, due to open next week, on Thursday braced for possible disruptions by angry French arts workers after they rejected a government plan to settle a row over unemployment benefits.

French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, who unveiled an emergency plan to settle the year-long dispute on Wednesday, urged performers and technicians not to wreak havoc on the glittering Riviera event.

"I say this seriously and calmly, and ask that it not be perceived as an ultimatum or a threat," Donnedieu de Vabres told private radio Europe 1 on Thursday.

"Cannes is a very important rendezvous in terms of artistic and cultural activity in this country," the minister added, saying a move by arts workers to disrupt the festival "would be a catastrophe for cultural employment."

But the workers say the stopgap government plan is inadequate, and have warned they will make waves at the glamourous event, due to open Wednesday with a screening of Pedro Almodovar's "Bad Education".

"One should not be surprised if damage is done at next week's festival," warned Jean-Francois Pujol, deputy secretary general of the hardline CGT trade union's arts branch, which represents the majority of workers in the industry.

"The 2004 Cannes festival will be a memorable one," he added.

The culture minister was due to meet with arts workers on Thursday in a last-ditch effort to defuse the looming showdown.

The conflict erupted last year when the centre-right government, under severe budgetary pressure, introduced cost-cutting changes to the show business workers' unemployment system to limit widespread abuse among the out-of-work.

The benefits scheme previously allowed France's 100,000 industry employees to qualify for year-round unemployment pay-outs if they worked for just three months, causing the fund to run at an annual deficit of some EUR 850 million.

The changes, which went into effect in January, reduced the amount of benefits and the period in which they are received, while tightening requirements to qualify for them.

On Wednesday, Donnedieu de Vabres announced the creation of a provisional fund for arts workers whose unemployment benefits were cut, to which the government would contribute EUR 20 million (USD 24.3 million).

The fund would make payouts to those who clocked 507 hours over a 12-month period - the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits under the old system - but only for a limited period.

Last summer, protests by arts performers and technicians unhappy with the plans to revamp their benefits led to the cancellation of numerous festivals across France - and millions of euros in lost revenues.

Organisers fear this summer's offerings may suffer a similar fate, with the Cannes film fest, the Montpellier dance festival and the Festival of Lyric Art in Aix-en-Provence in the line of fire.

Disrupting the Cannes film fest, which runs through May 23, would attract global attention given the number of international celebrities and thousands of journalists who usually attend.

Some of Hollywood's biggest stars, including Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Penelope Cruz and Charlize Theron, are expected to put in appearances at the event, which is often the launching pad for some of the year's biggest blockbusters.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

0 Comments To This Article