Strike lowers curtain on debut night of France's high-profile Avignon festival

Union says 71 percent of employees, from actors to stage hands, voted for opening night stoppage in ongoing row over unemployment benefits.

This article is open access. Information protects us. I subscribe

The show will not go on at the Avignon Festival on Friday, as theater workers voted for a one-day strike that hits the prestigious arts festival's opening night in a dispute over unemployment benefits, reports Reuters.

The industrial action, one of several in recent months, is another headache for France which has to curb benefits spending to reach EU-imposed deficit reduction targets and implement a raft of economic reforms.

A union spokesman told Reuters that 71 percent of employees, from actors to stage hands, voted on Thursday night in favor of a stoppage on day one, also reserving the right to repeat their action.

Temporary arts workers have been protesting throughout France in recent months over what they say is an unfair new contract that curtails their generous unemployment benefits.

Their threats to disrupt major summer festivals that attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, from Avignon to the annual opera spree in Aix-en-Provence, have prompted the government to launch talks to agree on a mutually acceptable new unemployment insurance scheme.

France's some 100,000 casual festival workers enjoy special status under law when they draw unemployment benefits between jobs, creating a disproportionate drain on the country's Unedic unemployment fund, which carries a 4 billion-euro deficit.

Although the Socialist government of Francois Hollande is trying to contain benefits spending to reach EU-imposed deficit reduction targets, the festival workers, called "intermittents", say their privileged status keeps French culture vibrant, as it allows them to support themselves between jobs.

Read more of this report from Reuters.

No mobilization without confidence
No trust without truth
Support us