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France’s culture workers protest cuts

Performing artists turned out on Monday in Paris and in several other cities in France to protest budget cuts that threaten the future of many theatre companies and other cultural establishments, as well as access to culture from disadvantaged groups in society, Humanite newspaper reports .

“We’re a thousand this afternoon in Paris. There were 100 this morning in Marseille and other marches are being organized today in Metz , Bordeaux, Montpellier …” said Denis Gravouil, secretary general of the entertainment section of the CGT union. Departing from Place de la République, the march continued to Palais Royal, near the Ministry of Culture. A delegation was received by advisers to the Prime Minister.

Protesters fear further cuts to state and local authority culture budgets and are concerned about the consequences of certain provisions of a decentralization bill. There are also worries ahead of talks that are due to start on reforms to the unemployment benefit system for casual entertainment workers.

In a broad appeal to all workers and spectators, the protestors issued a declaration that said:

  • Because we support access for all to culture, a constitutional right.
  • Because since the Enlightenment, culture was the leaven of liberty , equality and fraternity .
  • Because the state is the guarantor of cultural democracy .
  • Because culture creates individual and collective – as well as economic – wealth.
  • Because for years the commodification of culture and declining budgets have undermined this right and freedom to create.

They also criticise new legislation that under the guise of decentralisation is undermining culture and the “equity and solidarity between different regions'”of France.

Wearing white masks, the employees of the Théâtre Marigny threatened with dismissal rubbed shoulders in the Paris demonstration with representatives of the state run Comédie-Française theatre, and performers and journalists.

“This is more than fear, we are angry. During [his election] campaign, [President Francois] Hollande pledged to protect the budget for culture and instead we have seen a decrease of 3% ,” said Angeline Barth, secretary general of the CGT – Synptac, the section of the trade union central representing professionals working in theatre and the field of culture.

This first day of protest marches, which should be followed by others in the Spring, is the first united initiative by all the unions – also including the CFDT , FO and CGC – representing cultural workers and employers, in the sectors of music, opera and contemporary arts.

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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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