The current discussions on the status of those employed in the entertainment industry are essential and very revealing. Some see them as parasites paid from taxpayer’s money. For others, they are artists and technicians who are essential if the film, TV and performing arts industry is to work properly, which in turn are critical to French economic and cultural life.
In fact, opportunities for engaging in these occupations are episodic, and if we want to attract talent, it would seem desirable to subsidize them by other taxpayers. Even if this is not the case in other countries, like Germany or Great Britain (where live performing arts, theatrical show and musical performance are not doing so badly), as has been the case since 1936 in France for technicians and film artists, since 1969 for performing artists, slightly later for live performing arts technicians and finally those working in the fields of television and advertising as well as other closely related professions. Agreements in 2003, hard-won, have established the current system, in which it is necessary and sufficient to work 507 hours every ten months, representing approximately four months of full-time work to be eligible within that programme, which provides them better remuneration than those involved in temporary agency work who nevertheless have to work longer hours to be eligible for their scheme.
Like all human activity, it has caused a lot of fraud and abuses: many entertainment businesses or other businesses prefer to put the burden of the remuneration of these categories of staff on taxpayers rather than taking them as employees, even though they make use of them on an almost permanent basis, inventing a status of « full-termittent. » And the Court of Financial Auditors who continues to prosecute them, and it has been for quite some time, gives a fraud rate of « at least 15% among intermittent workers,» denouncing a scheme that costs around one billion euros to other schemes and representing « a third of the total deficit of unemployment insurance, even though only 100,000 people benefit from it » and that the cumulative deficit of this system makes up the total indebtedness of the unemployment insurance system. Thus, intermittent workers receive 5 times more than what they pay to the system, while CDI holders (open-ended contract, or permanent employee contract) only receive 0.6 times what they pay and temporary workers 3 times what they finance.
It is this scheme which has just been modified, within the framework of the social partners agreement, (CGT: Confédération générale du travail, The General Confederation of Labor not included), which aims at rebalancing the budget of UNEDIC (National Union for Employment in Industry and Commerce – unemployment insurance fund). With this agreement there is a significant transformation of the situation as to the earnings of unemployed people, and particularly the highly complex rules on compensation for intermittent workers, in particular the waiting period and the maximum compensation amounts. All in all, this results in a cost reduction of about 150 million euros.
It is this agreement that intermittent workers are attempting to challenge, using the tremendous power of nuisance of those who can put a halt to others.
The country may decide to make such an effort for them, and for this, call in question the whole architecture of the social partners agreement. But it will be necessarily detrimental to unemployment benefits of other social categories, including temporary workers, with a closely related status, or detrimental to the recruitment of public employees, nurses or police officers. It would therefore be more equitable to maintain the existing financial contribution required of businesses, even if this means negotiating, out of this amount, how to share out those efforts, so that they do not concentrate on the real intermittent workers, whose status is really precarious, but on businesses, in particular television broadcast networks, which have misused it.
More generally, intermittent workers should be eligible for the same scheme than other temporary workers; the country should presume that all those in precarious employment will only contribute for one third of what they cost, the remainder being shouldered by public servants and employees with open-ended contracts. Provided that during this period of non-employment, they accept to participate in training programs.
These issues are neither anecdotal nor categorical. New technologies, together with the evolution of markets, are shaping all of us into intermittent workers, with ever more precarious employment, and skills increasingly changing. Also, in a civilized society, everyone should be confident that he will receive a remuneration in period of non-employment, on the condition that this time be used to be trained.
The intermittent performers are therefore at the forefront of our societies. Their rights will be one day those of all. Along with this role come responsibilities.