Strike up the band: Paris orchestra wails at pension reform plans


  • World
  • Wednesday, 01 Jan 2020

Members of the Paris Opera's orchestra play an improvised open-air concert at the city's Place de la Bastille square to protest the government's proposed pension reform, which affects the state-employed musicians' special status in Paris, France, December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - The French capital's Opera Bastille has been silent for nearly a month because its orchestra is on strike, but on Tuesday the musicians performed on the steps of the opera house to bring attention to their anger at planned pension reforms.

The orchestra's string section, out on strike as part of a nationwide protest against the pension plans, performed pieces including Sergei Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite next to a banner reading "Paris Opera on strike".

The national strike action has crippled public transport, and curtailed lessons in state schools, casting a pall over the holiday period for many French people.

Explaining the thinking behind the outdoor concert, Christophe Grindel, a union representative who works for the opera, said: "It's our chance to bring in a little touch of positivity, and to show our job is to play music."

"We're really unhappy to be on strike for nearly a month and to have cancelled 45 shows."

He said he wanted the government to sit down with unions and reconsider.

Performances washed out because of the strike include the ballet Raymonda, made famous by Russian dancer Rudolf Nureyev, and the opera Lear, based on William Shakespeare's King Lear.

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to replace France's tangle of multiple state pension systems with a single, points-based mechanism. He says that would be fairer and more financially sustainable.

Unions say the plan would force staff at some state-owned enterprises, who enjoy special privileges, to work longer or else put up with smaller pensions.

Ballerinas in white tutus danced scenes from Swan Lake on the forecourt of the Paris Opera last week to protest against Macron's plans.

(Reporting by Thierry Chiarello and Ardee Napolitano; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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