The Opera de Paris has lost €2.5 million (£2.1m) in a week due to a rolling strike over its generous pensions system that has led to almost all shows being cancelled as ballet stars in tutus took to the streets.
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The Opera de Paris’s pension regime is one of the oldest in France, dating back to Louis XIV.
It is costly as ballet dancers are allowed to retire at 42 and technical staff can leave with a full pension in the their 50s.
However, their generous regime is one of 42 that are for the chop after President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial shakeup of the French pension system.
Under the new one, rail workers, lawyers, nurses or ballet dancers will pay into the same points-based “universal” scheme that the government insists ends unfair perks and restores equity among retirees.
Staff at the Opera de Paris don’t see it that way and have been on strike along with tens of thousands of other French workers, mainly from the public sector, over the past seven days.
As a result, some 15 opera and ballet shows have been cancelled at the institution’s two venues – Opera Bastille and Palais Garnier – since last Thursday, when the first mass demonstration took place.
Each performance of Alexandre Borodin’s Prince Igor axed at Bastille cost €358,000 in lost ticket sales, confirmed the Opera.
The Opera de Paris and the Comédie Française, France’s prestigious classical theatre company, are the only two such institutions affected by the pension reform.
Around 100 ballet dancers took part in strike demonstrations in Paris on Thursday.
Matthias Bergmann, 57, a video stage manager at the Opera de Paris and unionist with Sud Spectacle, said: “They want to smash our pension regime but the opera is a very complicated machine."
“Dancers currently retire at 42 because they are physically exhausted and now they want them to retire at 64. Opera technicians work very hard. They should let us retire at 55 and keep things as they are,” he told the Telegraph.
The latest Paris protests came a day after prime minister Edouard Philippe unveiled the details of the pension reform.
He said he hoped it would satisfy unions sufficiently to end a crippling strike that has seen almost all national train journeys axed, along with metro lines and some flights, as well as hundreds of school closures.
However, all the main unions rejected the proposals, with even the moderate ones saying a “red line” had been crossed by raising the de factor retirement age from 62 to 64 by 2027.
The hardline CGT has warned that strike action could continue across the Christmas period, bringing travel misery to millions across the country.