P.M. seeks talks over Gallic labor dispute

Raffarin supports controversial cuts to benefits

PARIS — French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin urged unemployment org Unedic to negotiate with striking part-time showbiz workers on Monday, as the opening of the Cannes Films Festival loomed.

In a letter to Unedic’s prexy, Raffarin called for three-way discussions between Unedic, the state and the workers. The prime minister said that he supports the cuts to unemployment benefit that have angered the workers but agrees that “in many individual cases, they have caused distress.”

The discontented showbiz workers have threatened to disrupt the Cannes fest, which opens Wednesday.

Raffarin said that the emergency funds announced last week by Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres were only transitory and that he wanted the parties to find a permanent solution.

Over the weekend nearly 100 protesters besieged a depot where films were being loaded into vehicles destined for Cannes and prevented them from leaving for several hours.

Further, several French directors with pics in this year’s fest lineup signed a declaration of support for the striking workers Saturday.

Raffarin, however, warned the workers against ” a democracy through blackmail” and festival “hostage-taking.”