Gallic worker dispute simmering

New fund doesn't dispel threat of Cannes disruptions

PARIS — Angry French showbiz workers continue to threaten this month’s Cannes Film Festival, despite a E20 million ($24.3 million) fund unveiled by new Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres Wednesday to help industryites cope with cuts to unemployment benefits.

“We’ll definitely be at Cannes, and we’re going to do everything we can to disrupt the festival,” Dominique Lebeight, a spokeswoman for the showbiz workers coordination committee in Ile-de-France, told Daily Variety.

The vow came after Donnedieu de Vabres, who took up his post March 31, announced the new fund plus a $36 million boost for the living arts.

The workers, whose strikes last year paralyzed numerous summer fests including the Avignon theater festival, were not having any of it.

“We are not satisfied, we’re angry,” said Samuel Churin, a member of the regional showbiz workers coordination committee.

Speaking on French radio and evoking the Avignon fest, Churin set a Wednesday night meeting in Paris “for a call to Cannes.”

“It’s easy to pass us the hot potato now and say, ‘Take responsibility for yourselves,’ ” Churin said. “As long as the government doesn’t take on its responsibilities, we will continue to do so for ourselves.”

The national committee repping showbiz workers said in April that it plans to hold a news conference in Cannes on May 14, two days after the fest opens.

“I will be present at Cannes, ready for any debates with whoever so desires,” Donnedieu de Vabres underlined. “If Cannes is at risk, it will please a certain number of countries who are not happy that France is the beacon of the cultural exception.”

The workers have already disrupted cultural events this year, making a fiasco of the Molieres in April when technicians left the theater awards ceremony without lights and microphones in solidarity with striking part-timers.

Cannes organizers have issued a statement supporting the workers’ fight to keep showbiz unemployment benefits at their present rate, hoping to defuse any action. Event doesn’t have any part-time showbiz workers among its staff of 1,500.