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Cannes Workers Turn Pre-Fest Meet into Strike Rally

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Cannes festival workers turned a pre-festival meet-and-greet event into a spontaneous strike rally on Sunday, applauding representatives from the Sous les écrans la dèche collective, a group that has called for a walkout by freelance workers to disrupt this year’s event.

On Sunday, May 12, festival workers were invited to meet with management for a pre-festival cocktail and informal welcome, something that happens every year before the festival kicks off.

But this time, members of the Sous les écrans distributed badges and stickers for workers to show their solidarity with the group’s demands, which include a general strike of “all employees of the Cannes Film Festival and of its sidebars” in protest of what the group terms the “precarious” position of freelancer workers at the event.

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In a video sent to The Hollywood Reporter by a member of Sous les écrans, workers can be seen applauding the group’s spokesman and cheering him on.

The group, whose name translates as Broke Behind the Screens, has long been sounding the alarm about the precarious nature of film festival work, which typically involves short-term freelance contracts. Many intermediate festival workers are not covered by France’s unemployment insurance program, meaning in between jobs or projects they do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

New French labor laws, set to go into effect on July 1, will make it even harder for many freelance workers to qualify for benefits. The collective is calling for a change to the contracts from freelance festival workers to allow them to qualify, and for the changes to be backdated 18 months to allow workers to claim for previous festival work.

More than 400 international filmmakers and industry executives, including Anatomy of a Fall actor Swann Arlaud and Louis Garrell, who stars in Quentin Dupieux’s Cannes festival opener The Second Act, Palme d’Or winner Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Hellboy director Neil Marshall, and U.S. director and producer John Landis (The Blues Brothers) have signed an online petition in support of Sous les écrans.

The Cannes festival has said it is open to a dialog with the group and hopes that “collective action” can prevent a strike. The festival is expected to address the issue on Monday. The 77th Cannes film festival kicks off Tuesday, May 14.

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Hollywood Reporter Original Article

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