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Ken Loach rejects Turin award over worker dispute

Director Ken Loach has declined a lifetime achievement award from the Turin Film Festival and cancelled plans to attend the event in protest of an alleged labour dispute.

  • Scroll down for full statement

Loach was due to receive the Gran Premio Torino lifetime achievement prize at the festival on Nov 26.

But the 76-year-old director of comedy caper The Angels’ Share, which TFF has subsequently cancelled screening, learned that cleaning and security services at Turin’s National Film Museum - the festival’s parent organisation - had been outsourced, which resulted in wage and staff cuts.

Loach then released a statement explaining why he had pulled out of the festival.

“It is with great regret that I have had to decline the Award from the Torino Film Festival,” he said.

“There is a serious problem. It is the issue of outsourcing services provided by the lowest paid workers…The fact that it is happening throughout Europe does not make it acceptable.

“In Torino, the cleaning and security services at the Film Museum have been outsourced to Coop Rear. A wage cut was followed by allegations of intimidation and harassment. A number of people have been dismissed. So the lowest paid, the most vulnerable workers, lose their jobs because they oppose a wage cut.”

Bread and Roses

Loach harked back to Bread and Roses, his film that was nominated for the 2000 Cannes Palme d’Or, which deals with the struggle of poorly paid janitors in Los Angeles.

“How can I not respond to the call for solidarity from workers sacked for standing up for their rights?,” added Loach.

“To accept the Award and make a few critical comments would be weak and hypocritical. We cannot say one thing on screen and betray that in our actions.

The statement was initially released by BIM Distribuzione, the Italian distributor for The Angels’ Share.

“Badly informed”

However, the National Film Museum claimed that Loach had been “badly informed” and that the outsourcing followed a competitive bidding process.

“It displeases us that a great film director, someone we have always admired, has been badly informed and does not reflect in any way the reality,” said a statement.

Turin Film Festival posted a message on its website that said: “We regretfully announce that, for reasons beyond the control of the Torino Film Festival, Ken Loach will not attend to receive his Gran Premio Torino award and, as a result, the screening of The Angels’ Share has been cancelled. The title of the film which will be screened instead of The Angels’ Share will be announced shortly.

“The tickets which had been purchased for the screenings of The Angels’ Share will be automatically reimbursed.”

The festival begins tomorrow (Nov 23) with a screening of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, Quartet, and concludes on Dec 1.

Full statement

It is with great regret that I have had to decline the Award from the Torino Film Festival.

The Award would have been an honour for me and for those who have worked on our films. Festivals have a valuable function in promoting European and World filmmaking. Torino has a fine reputation and has clearly made an important contribution in nurturing a love of cinema.

However, there is a serious problem. It is the issue of outsourcing services provided by the lowest paid workers. The reason this happens is invariably to save money. The contractor who wins the tender will then reduce wages and cut staff. It is a recipe for conflict. The fact that it is happening throughout Europe does not make it acceptable.

In Torino, the cleaning and security services at the Film Museum have been outsourced to Coop Rear. A wage cut was followed by allegations of intimidation and harassment. A number of people have been dismissed. So the lowest paid, the most vulnerable workers, lose their jobs because they oppose a wage cut. Of course, it is difficult for us to disentangle the details of a dispute in another country with different labour practices. But that does not mean that the principles are not clear.

In this situation, the principal organisation cannot shut its eyes. It must accept responsibility for those who work for it, even if they are employed by a sub-contractor. I would hope the Museum, in this case, would speak to the workers and their unions, would ensure the sacked workers were re-employed and would re-think its policy of outsourcing. It is not right that the poorest should pay the price for an economic failure which they did not cause.

We have made a film on this very subject, ‘Bread and Roses’. How can I not respond to the call for solidarity from workers sacked for standing up for their rights? To accept the Award and make a few critical comments would be weak and hypocritical. We cannot say one thing on screen and betray that in our actions.

It is therefore with real sadness that I felt I had no alternative but to decline the Award.

Ken Loach

20th November 2012

Readers' comments (1)

  • I was reminded of how important a voice we each have and humbled that someone of Ken's stature used his voice to comment on a social issue that is becoming increasingly important.

    Thank you Mr Loach

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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