Director Ken Loach refuses Italian award after row over wage and staff cuts

The filmmaker is showing solidarity with workers 'sacked for standing up for their rights'

Veteran British film director Ken Loach has sparked a war of words with the organisers of an Italian film festival after he turned down an award over wage and staff cuts at the event’s backers.

Mr Loach, whose films are known for their social conscience, had been due to receive the Gran Premio Torino on Sunday but today revealed it would be “weak and hypocritical” to accept after learning the hiring practices at National Museum of Cinema in Turin.

Following his film Bread and Roses, which deals with workers’ rights, he said: “How can I not respond to the call for solidarity from workers sacked for standing up for their rights.”

The museum has outsourced cleaning and security services to a company called Coop Rear. Mr Loach said workers had been dismissed, while there had been allegations of intimidation and harassment. Some workers lost their jobs after opposing a wage cut.

He said the principal organisation “cannot shut its eyes” adding: “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.

The National Film Museum hit back saying that Mr Loach “has been badly informed and does not reflect in any way the reality.” The festival then cancelled the showing of the director’s latest film The Angel’s Share.

Mr Loach, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for The Wind That Shakes the Barley in 2006, said in his statement: “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.”

“It’s not right that the poorest should pay the price for an economic failure which they did not cause,” he added.