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News, 7-1: Long Hot Summer
Artists' Union Forces Cancellation of Montpellier, Marseille festivals;
Aix & Avignon Threatened
"One of the best images
that marks France -- the vivacity of her culture, her creations,
her diversity -- is gravely menaced."
-- Le Monde, editorial,
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2003 The Dance Insider
PARIS -- Rejecting a
deal signed by three smaller unions Friday that would grant freelance
performing artists and technicians eight months of unemployment
compensation for working 507 hours the previous 10 (technicians)
or 10 and a half (artists) months, the largest union representing
freelance performing artists and technicians or Intermittents de
Spectacle has forced the cancellation of summer festivals in Montpellier
and Marseille, of the opening performances of the festival in Aix-en-Provence,
and threatens to cancel the country's largest summer arts festival
in Avignon. The final night of Pina Bausch's current run at the
Theatre de la ville - Sarah Bernhardt in Paris was also cancelled,
after an angry CGT warned of a "long hot summer" in France.
Under the present regime,
the intermittents have 12 months in which to complete 507 hours
of work, for which they are granted 12 months of unemployment.
In Montpellier, a festival
spokeswoman insisted the decision to annul the festival, announced
Sunday, was "a common decision with artists, technicians, the Montpellier
dance team and the city of Montpellier in support of the (intermittents)
movement." But in reality, festival director Jean-Paul Montanari
had little choice. "There's no other solution," Montanari told Le
Monde in comments published today, after "all the shows have been
cancelled, one after the other, at the last moment." Except for
last Thursday's festival opening, all performances have been cancelled
in the face of strike threats by intermittents. In many theaters
and festivals in France, intermittents -- in effect, freelancers
hired under contract -- make up a large portion not just of the
performers, but the technical team.
Meanwhile, Avignon director
Bernard Faivre d'Arcier, who has delayed the opening of the festival
there, told Le Parisien he would have no choice but to cancel as
well if faced with strikes every night.
The intermittents crisis
comes at a time when much of the public sector in France is regularly
on strike, to protest government plans to increase the number of
years employees have to work before their pensions kick in.
Mathilde Monnier, who
directs the Centre Choregraphique in Montpellier and who has circulated
a petition backing the intermittents, told Le Monde, "We are all
in the same boat. This strike happens in the context of a political
culture already very degraded."
The intermittents regime
was adapted following the student rebellion of 1968, as a way to
aid artistic creation and to recognize the precariousness of the
artists who make the work, as Le Monde notes in an editorial in
In the last ten years,
the numbers of those in the system has doubled, from 50,000 to 100,000,
prompting charges of fraud in some quarters. Ernest-Antoine Seilliere,
director of the employer group Medef, denounced on Radio France
"people who live from their (unemployment) insurance in lieu of
living from their work." (According to Le Monde, the unemployment
insurance system faced a deficit of more than $900 million in 2002.)
But the intermittents
counter that they have a right to make their livings from their
metier -- as opposed to, say, having to work as waiters or waitresses
to support their artistic careers, as is often the situation in
the United States and other countries.
Opponents claim the
regime signed Friday threatens to remove 30 percent of the intermittents
from the system. They also say the decrease in benefits could deter
young artists from entering the performing arts professions.
Meanwhile, Culture Minister
Jean-Jacques Aillagon, after meeting with the directors of the Aix,
Avignon, and Marseille festivals, promised to take another look
at the accords signed Friday. But he also suggested, in comments
on France 2 last night reported in today's Liberation, that the
intermittents need to actually read the agreement. Aillagon promised
an announcement next week of a plan to support smaller companies.
The new accord also
allows intermittents to take complimentary work -- such as teaching
-- while still having their compensation kick in, and increases
the daily minimum compensation from 24.24 Euros to 25.90.
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