Workers in the performing arts in France call for the reopening of the sector and the guarantee of social rights for intermittent cultural workers.

Since 4 March, performing arts workers have been occupying the legendary Odéon theatre in Paris. The beginning of the action marks the first anniversary of the closure of the sector and the deprivation of workers’ livelihoods.

The cultural unions blame the French government for sacrificing the cultural sector to provide financial aid to big business. “Despite continuous discussions, the government does not propose any solution and does not give any hope of reopening the sector,” says Rémi Vander-Heym, General Secretary of SYNPTAC-CGT.

The unions are demanding a reform of the social protection system so that all workers in the sector have access to unemployment benefits, paid sick leave and paid maternity leave.

“We are calling for the extension of the ‘white year’, which provides unemployment assistance to workers in the sector in this situation where they have not been able to work for an unprecedented period of time,” said Denis Gravouil, General Secretary of CGT Spectacle. “The current scheme expires at the end of August,” he notes.

On behalf of all the unions affiliated to UNI – media, entertainment and arts, William Maunier, the sector’s Europa President, stressed the importance of actions in France and elsewhere in Europe to get governments to recognise that a reopening of culture is essential. The prospect of a reopening must include public investment in recovery and social support. “Our colleagues in the performing arts sector have been out of work for a full year, and audiences have been deprived of cultural and social experiences,” says Maunier. “It is time for governments to recognise the catastrophic situation of the sector and take strong and sustainable measures.”

Since the occupation of the Théâtre de l’Odéon, the mobilisation of workers in the performing arts has grown, with over 60 cultural venues occupied. Students in artistic training have joined the movement.

Ahead of a meeting between organisations of the cultural sector and the government on 22 March, the alliance of FIA, FIM and UNI MEI issued a joint letter to the Minister of Culture, Roselyne Bachelot, to express its support for the mobilisation in France. The Alliance is calling on the French government to step-up the support for cultural workers and to work towards a plan for a sustainable, fair, and inclusive reopening and recovery of the cultural sector.

The Alliance joins our French colleagues in demanding:

the withdrawal of the unemployment insurance reform
the extension of the “white year” due to the health crisis
a real recovery plan for employment
the guarantee of social rights

Let’s support them!

To follow and support colleagues in France go to: #OccupationOdeon