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Ken Loach snubs Italian film prize after workers sacked

British director Ken Loach has declined an award from the Turin Film Festival after members of the cleaning and security staff at the museum hosting the event were sacked or threatened for protesting salary cuts.

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British director Ken Loach on Wednesday turned down a prize from a festival organised by Italy's National Museum of Cinema in Turin in protest over the rights of cleaners and security guards at the museum.

"It is with great regret that I am obliged to turn down the prize assigned to me by the Turin film festival," the internationally acclaimed filmmaker said in a letter to organisers that was sent by his Italian distributors, BIM Film.

Loach, who is well known for his social activism and films about labour disputes, said workers hired for cleaning and security services at the museum had been mistreated, threatened and sacked after protesting over salary cuts.

"The workers who were worst paid and therefore most vulnerable lost their jobs for opposition to a reduction in pay," he said, adding: "It is unfair that the poorest pay the price for an economic crisis they are not responsible for."

Loach drew a comparison with his award-winning film "Bread and Roses" (2000) starring Adrien Brody, which is about the struggle for better working conditions and unionisation by poorly paid janitors in Los Angeles.

"How could I not respond to a request for solidarity from workers who were sacked for fighting for their rights? Accepting the prize and just making some critical comments would have been weak and hypocritical," he said.

Loach had been due to receive a lifetime achievement award from the festival, which said a planned screening of his latest film "The Angels' Share" -- a comedy-drama about a young Glaswegian father -- had also been cancelled.

Organisers said that Loach had been "badly informed" about the dispute and his comments "do not correspond in any way with the reality of the facts".

"The museum cannot be considered responsible for the behaviour of third parties, either directly or indirectly," the museum said in a statement, adding that it had always engaged in "ethically irreproachable" labour policies.

The Torino Film Festival runs from November 23 to December 1.

Italy's economy is stuck in a painful recession and Italians are feeling the pinch from a series of budget cuts and tax rises, leading to an increase in union activism with protests and strikes by workers in many sectors.

(AFP)

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