Montreal

Employees at Montreal's Festival des films du monde say they haven't been paid

A group of employees hired to work at Montreal's Festival des films du monde say they haven't been paid despite a number of promises made by festival founder Serge Losique.

Employees at Serge Losique's World Film Festival say payment deadline has come and gone

Festival founder Serge Losique, director Majid Majidi and Mayor Denis Coderre on the red carpet at this year's World Film Festival. (Radio-Canada)

A group of employees hired to work at Montreal's World Film Festival — better known as the Festival des films du monde — say they haven't been paid despite a number of promises made by festival founder Serge Losique.

"Behind the scenes of FFM, there are people. We aren't in the spotlight; we prefer to stay behind the camera. Today, however, we have decided to come out of the shadows, to express our concern that many employees have not been paid (some, for several weeks) and are worried that they ever will be paid. Promises of payment have not been honoured by the festival president, Mr. Serge Losique," said an email sent by the group to CBC/Radio-Canada.

The employees said they decided to come forward after the Sept. 4 payment deadline set by the festival came and went.

Quebec's department of labour standards, the Commission des normes du travail, confirmed this week that it has received complaints from FFM workers and that it will be conducting an investigation into the matter.

Henry Welsh, the festival's communications director, said the issue only involves a small minority of FFM's employees, and that it should be resolved in the next week.

Welsh told Radio-Canada that it's not uncommon for cultural organizations like the FFM to run into cash-flow problems, especially if there are any snags with sponsorship or grant dollars.

Financial problems

However, it's not the first time the festival's finances have caused concern.

Last year, the City of Montreal, SODEC and Telefilm withdrew their funding from the 2014 edition of the festival, and other groups have expressed reticence at continuing to support FFM.

Last month, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he wanted to see the FFM live on, but that in order to do there needed to be major changes in the way that it is managed. 

"I want to tell him, 'Listen, we're going to celebrate the 40th anniversary [in 2016] and everybody needs to be part of the solution,'" Coderre said. 

As for the workers' compensation, Welsh said everyone should be paid shortly after the festival wraps up on Sept. 7.

"I'm convinced that this will work out," Welsh said.

The group of employees wrote that they have decided to stay on until the end of the festival to make sure it's a success.

"We do this to support you — the public who have bought tickets — and the artisans of the seventh art who have travelled to our city (often at their own expense) to share their film," they wrote.

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