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A Gallic labor day

Massive strike takes toll on French biz

French media and showbiz suffered along with other sectors Tuesday as millions of Gallic workers put down their tools and took to the streets in mass demonstrations against proposed labor-law changes.

Pubcasting was directly hit: France 3’s TV schedules had to be hastily retooled after news staffers walked out.

Newspapers didn’t publish and some offered readers free access to their Web sites.

In Paris, theaters and restaurants reported sluggish business as folk opted to stay at home rather than cross paths with the protesters — police made some 387 arrests up and down the country — or hang around waiting for public transport, which ran, but in slowdown mode.

“People don’t want to go out for the evening if they’re not sure they’re going to get home,” said exhibitor Inger Laursen at Le Quartier Latin, an arthouse near the Sorbonne U., hub of the student-led protests.

Demonstrators recently occupied the academic institution for the first time since the protests of May 1968.

Even those not in the vicinity of the procession that snaked through central Paris complained business had been hit.

At the trendy restaurant at the MK2 theater chain’s Bibliotheque movie theater complex, business was down 30%, management complained.

“It was particularly bad Saturday night, and tonight (Tuesday),” said a manager.

However, the FNCF, which reps most of France’s movie theater owners, said the protests had only affected areas close to the protests.

For most Gallic exhibitors, this has been a strong year at the box office so far, with the recent “Printemps du Cinema” cheap ticket sales promotion drawing its best numbers since 2000.

Broadcasters whose staff were not on strike covered the day of action heavily. Commercial broadcaster TF1 devoted the first 20 minutes of its 8 o’clock newscast to the story.

The strike was provoked by a government proposal that would allow employers to more easily hire and fire workers under 26.

The government claims this will encourage companies to hire more workers, bringing down France’s 10% unemployment. But opponents complain it will undermine employee protections.

There are signs the government is cracking in its resolve to see the legislation through, with Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy suggesting it be suspended to allow fresh talks with the unions.