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Industry backlash against Macron assisted contract reforms

The government of Emmanuel Macron has been heavily criticised by several French music industry associations after announcing plans to axe hundreds of thousands of subsidised jobs, many of them in the music industry, as part of his wide-ranging reforms of France’s rigid labour laws.

Macron, who was elected president in May, is currently fast-tracking his reforms of the complex Code du Travail – which include making it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, and measures reducing the influence of trades unions – through parliament by a series of executive decrees, sparking several street protests against what far-left opposition leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon calls a “social coup d’état” for which Macron has no mandate.

The French live music industry was overwhelmingly supportive of Macron (pictured) in the run-up to May’s election, when he faced off against National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen – although Miala promoter Arnaud Meersseman warned the former had “made it very clear there needs to be a reform of social structures and wages” if he were elected.

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One particular aspect of those reforms has in recent weeks drawn the ire of industry bodies: the decision to drastically reduce the number of subsidised jobs (assisted contracts, or contrats aidés), which have been criticised by Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, as offering poor value for money. “In the private sector, only 25% of assisted contracts lead to a job, so [they have] a 75% failure rate,” Philippe claimed on Franceinfo’s Questions politiques earlier this month.

In a joint statement, classical music/opera union Les Forces Musicales, festival organisers’ union Profedim, theatres association Syndicat National des Scènes Publiques and music/performing arts union Syndeac have criticised plans to cut the number of assisted jobs (from 459,000 in 2016 to 293,000 in 2017 and 200,000 in 2018), asking the government to reconsider its planned cuts a programme it says has “positive effects on unemployment” in times of economic crisis.

Those eligible for assisted contracts include the long-term unemployed, the disabled, those on welfare and young people with few qualifications.

While not all employers of staff on assisted contracts are music/arts businesses, many venues, festivals and arts organisations have taken advantage of the scheme, as illustrated in an interactive map produced by trade union Asso:

While Philippe has insisted three groups of people – those supporting disabled children, residents of France’s overseas territories and emergency and social care workers – will remain a priority for contrats aidé, the four music/arts organisations maintain reducing the number of assisted jobs is the wrong decision.

“The paradoxical demand of asking culture-sector workers to take on more assignments […] with fewer subsidised jobs does not, in the context of increased financial fragility, seem like a good solution.”


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