Workers and unionsBy Samuel Zarka
1981 was the year of a “serious conflict” between the leadership of France’s CGT labour union in broadcasting/cinema (SNTPCT-CGT) and some union members. This crisis resulted in a schism into two separate union organisations. The first organisation remained a member of the Fédération du spectacle (a group of unions in the cultural performance sector), whereas the second organisation left the federation. This reshaping of labour organisations had a long-lasting impact on collective bargaining in these sectors. Research about this period generally emphasises the “corporatism” of the union’s leadership, without clarifying the specific causes and consequences of the conflict. By using union archives – including previously-unpublished materials – from the Fédération nationale du spectacle, as well as interviews with union leaders and people who participated in or were witnesses to the conflict, we see the emergence, alongside filmmaking teams, of new teams of broadcasting technicians whose jobs were very similar in terms of working techniques and discontinuous working schedules. The advent of these teams therefore raised the question of whether the standard legal provisions for filmmaking teams should be extended to broadcasting, which offered less advantageous pay conditions. This question reflects a typical issue of redefining occupational boundaries, challenging the very concept of professional qualifications. By revisiting this episode from a socio-historical perspective, we aim to better understand the reshaping of the filmmaking and broadcasting sector in France in the period that followed the domination of the Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française (ORTF).