French stage workers threaten Cannes film fest

19th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 18 (AFP) - A threat to disrupt this year's Cannes Film Festival with strikes is hanging over a meeting between unions representing French showbusiness workers and Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres set for Monday.

PARIS, April 18 (AFP) - A threat to disrupt this year's Cannes Film Festival with strikes is hanging over a meeting between unions representing French showbusiness workers and Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres set for Monday.

A group of the workers, who already closed down an international arts festival in Avignon last year, have formed a committee aimed at "occupying" the May 12-23 film festival on the Riviera - the pre-eminent showcase of world cinema which attracts many top celebrities.

In a statement last Thursday, the group said: "The 2004 Cannes festival cannot go on as usual."

It called for the committee to look at ways to disrupt the event to publicise the workers' opposition to a French government reform of their unemployment system which slashed benefits from January this year.

Last July, the Avignon festival - France's top international arts event - was shut down for the first time in its history because of action by the entertainment employees, who include actors, stage workers and technicians.

Other, smaller festivals were also cancelled.

In their statement, the group said governments across Europe were lifting their protection of cultural content, and they said they wanted to press for culture to be a priority in a mooted EU constitution being negotiated.

The issue is the first big test facing Donnedieu de Vabres, who took over the culture portfolio at the end of last month in a government reshuffle.

But, he said Saturday, the unions could expect "no miraculous solution."One of the unions, the CGT, has called for national demonstrations on Monday to call attention to the meeting.

The French government, which is under severe budgetary pressure because of a blown-out public deficit, said it introduced the cost-cutting changes to the showbusiness workers' unemployment system after years of widespread abuse.

The benefits previously allowed France's 100,000 industry employees to qualify for year-round unemployment pay-outs if they worked for just three months, leaving the fund to run at an annual deficit of some EUR 850 million (USD 1 billion).


© AFP                                                   

                                                         Subject: French news

 

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