In their fight to quash a change in unemployment benefits, France's "intermittents du spectacle" - or part-time showbiz workers - won a temporary reprieve when culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon agreed to maintain the current system until the end of 2003.

The workers are rallying against an agreement signed by all the major unions except the powerful CGT on June 27 which would see artists and technicians forced to work 507 hours over ten and a half months rather than the current 507 hours over 12 months in order to qualify for benefits.

Aillagon may have only handed the workers a temporary victory. According to Agence France Presse, he said that moves towards the agreement of June 27th would take place over 2004 and 2005.

Arguably, Aillagon was reacting to pressure from organisations throughout the country who have seen a week of protests which have shut down several festivals.

An open letter signed by 1,109 professionals was published by two daily newspapers on Monday stating "In this somber period, where our indemnities are for many of us the only way to keep our heads above water, the attacks against them are a veritable catastrophe."

Signatories to the letter included Ariane Ascaride, Daniel Auteuil, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Agnes Jaoui, Cedric Klapisch, Tonie Marshall and Francois Ozon. They stressed, however that they were in favour of a reform in the regulations, which would allow for savings in other areas.

Aillagon's concession may have already come too late to undo damage - notably to Paris Cinema, an event organised by the city to promote film. In its inaugural outing, the Euros 1.2m event has fallen victim to the strikers.

Not only was the opening ceremony disrupted, but some film-makers have pulled their pictures from the line-up and some festival conferences have been besieged by angry workers.

On Monday, a conference on the issue of television advertising for film was cancelled when more than a hundred protesters blocked the entrance to the Gaumont Ambassade theatre on the Champs-Elysees where the meeting was to be held.

Those who made it to the lobby included representatives of the major terrestrial broadcasters, film financier Coficine, the National Cinema Federation and exiting Authors-Directors-Producers Association chief Pascal Rogard.

As protesters began to infiltrate the meeting, the delegates, following Rogard's lead, decided end the session

Although security was on hand, guards were told to keep a low profile so as not to incite anger from the protesters. Waving red flags and chanting against capitalism, the artists and technicians posed for television cameras outside the venue.

As for future conferences organised by Paris Cinema, a debate planned for tomorrow evening entitled "The Role of Culture in the Future European Constitution" is likely to be disrupted by the striking workers.

Expected to attend are culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon along with EU commissioner Viviane Reding, Arte-France president Jerome Clement and Agnes Jaoui.

Undaunted, Rogard, who will host the debate told Screen Daily, "If they try to invade us tomorrow we'll just hold the debate in my office and make it an intimate affair for 20 people or so."