Once again the French are at strike:
Protesting French actors and technicians, who prompted the cancellation of most summer arts festivals last year and forced the resignation of the French culture minister this spring, are now threatening to disrupt the Cannes film festival next month. They want to pressure the government to bow to their demands on unemployment benefits.
On Monday the protesters muscled their way into a Paris theater where the annual MoliÃ¨re theater prizes were being awarded. Amid raucous scenes, that ceremony was held without lights or microphones. Across town they also forced “Il Trovatore” to be given in concert version at the Bastille Opera.
Here is more background:
The protesters want to revoke an agreement, reached in June by three unions and the national employers’ association in France, that reduces unemployment benefits for about 100,000 self-employed artists and technicians. The employers said that an earlier agreement was being widely abused and cost them $1 billion a year. Two leftist unions, which refused to sign the deal, have been leading the protests. Before the June agreement, if employees worked 507 hours during a 12-month period they were guaranteed 12 months of unemployment benefits. Now they must work 507 hours in 11 months to earn 8 months of unemployment benefits.
In theory the unemployment fund for cultural workers is managed exclusively by employers and representatives of artists and technicians. But inevitably the government has been drawn into the fray, with the wrath of protesters frequently directed at Jean-Jacques Aillagon, who was the culture minister until March 31. His successor, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, is caught between the employers’ refusal to cede and the countdown to Cannes.