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French summer festivals disrupted


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France has a quite unique unemployment benefit program for unemployed artists.

Proposed changes to the program created an uproar. Art workers went into protest

actions over the weekend and several festivals - including jazz ones - were disrupted.

From AP:

Strikes disrupt France's summer arts festivals

Performers and other arts workers angry over planned changes to their unemployment

benefits on Sunday announced a series of strikes, forcing the cancelation of a dance

festival and threatening to wreak havoc with France's summer arts season.

Targets of the protest will include the 57th edition of the Avignon Festival, a renowned celebration of theater, dance and spectacle due to start July 8, said union leader Jean


Technicians at Avignon voted Saturday to strike, said Voirin, of the Communist-linked

CGT union.

Organizers canceled the remainder of a dance festival in the southern city of Montpellier

that was to have run to July 5. Strikes had already forced the cancelation of several

events at the festival Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Other arts festivals at Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, also in the south of France, would

also be hit by strikes this week, Voirin said. His union said festivals at Rennes and at Carhaix-Plouger, in northwest France, will also face disruptions.

In Paris, police on Sunday cleared out about 50 protesters who occupied an exhibition

hall in a park often used for concerts and open-air movie showings, the Ministry of

Culture said.

Shows in other towns also were disrupted or canceled, the CGT union said, which

planned a national day of protest and strikes for Wednesday. At a jazz festival in the

southern town of Vienne, protesters with fog horns interrupted a concert by Brazilian

Joao Gilberto on Saturday night.

The protests were prompted by plans to make it harder for arts workers - including

performers, theater technicians and suchlike - to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Three unions signed a deal with France's main business federation last week that

would require arts workers to accumulate 507 hours of work over 10 months to qualify

for unemployment pay in the frequent periods when they can't find jobs.

Currently, they have 12 months in which to accumulate 507 hours.

Under the deal, they would be able to draw unemployment pay for only eight months,

instead of the current 12. The changes are aimed at making up a €828 million

($950 million) shortfall in the system used to pay arts workers' unemployment.

The CGT and another leftist union, Workers Force, refused to back the agreement.

"We're angry, an anger largely shared by all professionals, whether they are

performers, technicians or workers," said Voirin, speaking on Europe-1 radio.

"The government must say in the clearest possible fashion: 'This accord must be re-negotiated,'" he said.

The government's culture minister, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, however, said Sunday that

the deal will have "very significant advantages" for arts workers.

Speaking on France-Info radio, he said he regretted "that the work of performers and

that the public are being held hostage by a protest that is poorly thought-out."

As mentioned in the story, Saturday nights' opening concert at the Vienne jazz festival

was interrupted. Other jazz festivals hit were the ones in Paris and in Tours where the

final night of the European jazz festival had to be cancelled.

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Arts workers are perhaps not the only workers in irregular employment who can benefit disproportionately from a welfare system drafted with longer term work patterns in mind. I am not surprised that the French Government has finally got around to this.

Part of the problem is that many art workers were being kept busy with undeclared

jobs which enabled them to work and get unemployment benefits at the same time.

The problem went out of hands lately as special trusts supervising returns from art

workers saw these returns dwindle while spendings surged to an all-time high.

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Thanks Brownie - I think I can see why that needs tidying up!

Dmitry - as you gathered from the useful link - this is indeed tatu. My signature quotation is from an American interview. It was the girls' reply when they were asked if all the mock-lesbian stuff was not very politically correct. I quite liked the way they transformed that question into their own terms.

(J Larsen came up with an even better one - and B3-er found an even better use for it - here, if you can be bothered to trawl through...)

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