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Strikers air out ire

Showbiz workers close Paris' outdoor fest

This article was updated at 2:00 p.m. PT on July 22, 2003.

PARIS — Paris’ annual open-air cinema festival at the Parc de la Villette was canceled Monday night, the latest victim of a strike by French showbiz workers.

The six-week fest, which started in July, annually attracts 200,000 spectators, who come with wine and blankets to enjoy a wide range of films and the balmy summer night air.

The cancellation comes as entertainment business workers continue to protest government cuts to their unemployment benefits.

The Avignon theater festival, the world’s largest, was axed earlier this month, as were several other cultural events.

Taking to streets

Earlier on Monday, strikers called for an artistic occupation of Chalon-sur-Saone, a day after France’s second-largest street theater fest ended with 80% of the shows nixed. The strikers were welcomed and housed by locals, a show of solidarity despite the large amount of money lost by all the regional towns affected by fest cancellations.

The government has said the existing unemployment benefits are being abused. It wants performers to work 507 hours over 10 months to qualify for eight months of benefits rather than 507 hours over 12 months for a year’s benefits. Changes will compensate for a $955 million shortfall in the sector’s benefit fund, which the government is forced to meet.

The striking workers claim television and film production companies are the real perpetrators of the abuse, saying they take advantage of the part-time employees to keep from paying real salaries.

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