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Last Updated: Monday, 30 June, 2003, 14:18 GMT 15:18 UK
French festivals hit by strikes
Strikers earlier this month
Millions came out on strike earlier this year
Some of France's top arts festivals are at risk this summer because of a strike by the country's artistic workers.

Staff in the theatre, TV and film industries have walked out in protest at new regulations which cover their unemployment benefits.

On Monday, workers picketed the offices of three companies in and around Paris which rent equipment to TV and film companies, which organisers say disrupted work on several productions.

Similar actions have forced the cancellation of performances at theatres in the capital, including the Comedie Francaise.

In the south of France, this week's Montpellier Dance Festival has been cancelled while organisers of the Marseille Festival, also due to take place this week have also opted to cancel, rather than risk disruption by the wildcat strikes.

Event director Apolline Quintrand said: "I don't want to take any risks."

Opera postponed

The city of Aix-en-Provence has already postponed the first few days of its of its annual opera festival, due to start on Friday, because of the action, and director Stephane Lisser has warned the rest of the festival could be at risk.

Protesters against pension reform
Earlier strikes targetted the French transport network
Next week's Avignon drama festival, which drew 98,000 spectators last year, is also in peril.

The row follows three small unions signing up to new welfare rules, which would reduce from 12 to eight the number of months artistic workers - who often work sporadically - can claim unemployment benefits in each year.

Arts workers like performers and technicians would also have to work for 507 hours over 10-and-a-half months to qualify, rather then the same amount of hours every 12 months.

A spokesperson for one of the unions which signed up to the new deal, the CFDT, said: "By signing, we feel we have saved a system that was in jeopardy."

But the CDT and FO unions - which have called a number of widespread strikes across France in protest at pension reforms - are refusing to sign up.

CGT official Jean Voirin said: "It's a catastrophic agreement."

Culture minister Jean-Jacque Ailligon has asked arts workers to reconsider the strike action, insisting the agreement offers "considerable advances".

Arts festivals are a valuable part of the French tourist industry, attracting 900,000 people across 650 events last year.

French strikes falter
19 Jun 03  |  Europe

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