Paris Opéra is hit by strike

Paris Opéra is hit by strike


norman lebrecht

February 28, 2014

A stoppage was averted in Rome, hours before Anna Netrebko’s debut.

Paris was not so lucky.

Madama Butterfly was shut down last night and there were demonstrations in front of the Bastille over dwindling pension funds for theatre workers.

The following notice went up on the website:

Opéra Bastille_2_tour




Due to the national day of action in connection with the defence of the “intermittent performer status” and strike notice served by the SUD and FSU trade unions at the Paris Opera and the CGT union at a national level, the evening of balletsCullberg/ De Millescheduled for Thursday 27 February 2014 at 7.30 pm at the Palais Garnier has been cancelled.

The management of the Paris Opera wishes to apologise to spectators and to propose either a ticket exchange for another performance of the same production or a refund.



  • MWnyc says:

    Oh God, not the intermittents again …

    Anyone else remember the mass cultural suicide they forced on France in the summer of 2003? I understood their concerns, but they squandered the good will of a public that might have been on their side – not just by forcing the cancellation of many performances (I think the Aix festival ended up shutting down that year), but by disrupting performances in progress.

    And the presenters whose performances and festivals they were disrupting weren’t even the people who had the power to make the changes they demanded. And they knew it; they just wanted (as I remember one protester being quoted) “to express our rage.” (I remember that that concert, of chamber music in a rural church where the protesters physically blocked the audience from entering the venue, was cancelled because the presenters were seriously afraid that audience members were going to beat up the protesters.)

    Dieu au ciel, please don’t let that happen again this year.

    • MWnyc says:

      By the way, Norman, it’s not pension funds, exactly, that they’re protesting over. It’s the unemployment insurance payments that the intermittents (freelance workers in the performing arts, backstage as well as onstage) receive when they’re between gigs.

      I’m not certain what exactly the issue being protested is; I gather it’s something about a change in either eligibility requirements or how the amount of payment is calculated. Anyone here from France who can clarify?

      • Miguel Esteban says:

        I have always wondered myself, so here goes:

        1. On 19 February, MEDEF, the largest union of employers in France, controversially called for outright eliminating the category of “intermittents du spectacle,” which sparked yesterday’s strike.

        2. “Intermittents du spectacle” is neither a job role nor a status. It is a system for workers in the entertainment field who, by the nature of their trade, are employed primarily via short-term contracts. The system allows them to receive unemployment benefits between jobs. It covers technical as well as artistic personnel in the fields of cinema, audiovisual, music and performing arts. The system is described in annexes 8 and 10 of the unemployment law (until recently, the unemployment agency was called UNEDIC).

        3. The reason behind the reforms in 2003 was to find a balance between the employee contributions and the benefits paid out and reduce/eliminate the persistent deficits. To be considered eligible, you need first and foremost to pay into the system (you opt for this type of unemployment insurance as opposed to another, so this is not an additional deduction). Since 2003, to be eligible, you have to prove that you worked at least 507 hours (around three and a half months) during the last ten (technical personnel) or ten and a half (artistic personnel) months, for which you receive eight months’ worth of benefits. The rules for accounting for the hours are quite tricky. Before 2003, the period to achieve the minimum number of hours was 12 months. The discussions today revolve around the fact that, despite the reforms, the deficit is purportedly upwards of EUR 1 billion per year.

        4. The normal unemployment system compensates employees on the basis of one day of compensation per day worked, so the intermittents system is more favourable. This unequal treatment is one of the arguments put forth by the MEDEF against the system. The opposing argument is that the intermittents face a much higher level of risk than permament employees. The intermittants also earn less on average than permanent employees.

        Hope this helps.