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Paris Christmas market workers threaten to protest

Market stall staff and fairground workers are threatening to march on Paris and block its roads if the police do not allow the traditional Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées to take place.

In July, the Mairie (town hall) of Paris broke off its contract with the organiser - Marcel Campion, often informally known as the “king of fairground workers” - of the traditional German-style market, a decision that has already caused controversy.

Today (Friday), the city’s police will decide if the market can go ahead as usual, or will be banned from the capital this year, as reports French news source 20 Minutes

Campion and his fellow workers are not hopeful, however, after they attempted to set up some stalls on Tuesday, but they were moved on by Gendarmerie, and prevented from arriving at the Champs-Elysées altogether.

Campion and supporters are the same team that organises the famous big wheel fairground attraction at Place de la Concorde. They had signed a six-year contract with the Mairie in 2015 to operate the fairs and the market, with a break clause after two years.

However, Campion alleges that the break clause was never intended to be used, and that the contract had been signed with the understanding that the event would continue for at least six years. He is now threatening to take the Mairie to court if necessary.

“There was never any question of it being any less than six years,” he said, speaking to 20 Minutes.

“It’s just what you do, have a ‘two-year break clause’, but the six years were implied. Do you think we would have made so many investments in our equipment [if it were only for two years]? If the Mairie wants to break our contract, we will be forced to use the channels that are available to us.”

Campion warned that over 2,000 jobs would be at risk if the markets did not go ahead, saying: “We don’t want compensation, we want our jobs. Most people here do not have a cheque waiting for them at the end of the month.”

The group has alleged that they have been pushed out from the capital because of an agreement by the city with investor and luxury goods CEO Bernard Arnault - one of the richest men in France - whose group is said to be planning a fairground on a similar spot.

The usual fairground would be a major competitor to this, and Campion’s group alleges that this is why they have been sidelined.

René Hayoun, another fairground worker and head of the fairground workers union, said: “Today, they are cutting us off in favour of big financial groups, without compensation or dialogue. We will not accept it.”

He continued: “We will protest in Paris until we are heard. If we are heard, there will be no problem. We are festival and party people, not warriors.”

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