Fréjus' National Front Mayor David Rachline's plan to have a group of around 15 local artists serve as “voluntary” minders of pre-school and primary-school kids has been met with outrage by those concerned.
“The Town Hall has decided to make us work for free, it wants us to take care of kids for free!” art photographer Olivier Isselin lamented, adding he was ready give up his studio if the plan goes through.
“We have no training in taking care of kids that small. And how will it work considering we often have to go away for exhibitions to do our real work?” he was quoted as telling French daily Le Parisien.
Because of their professional status, which is considered to be precarious in France, the artists have up until now received steep subsidies for their work spaces, paying only €2.50 per square metre a month in the old part of Fréjus.
But when their former rental contract with the Town Hall ended on June 30th, the new mayor decided to add a few conditions to the agreement, forcing the artists to participate in “educational activities organised by the city” between 4:30pm and 6pm.
According to Le Parisien, the mayor announced the measures during a Town Hall meeting on July 21st.
“The town finances a large part of the rents of a certain number of these ladies and gentlemen,” Rachline allegedly told the meeting, adding that Fréjus was only "getting a minimum in return".
"There will be no more debate: either this project works out and everyone agrees to take part [in the child-minding activities], or I'll put an end to artists not paying the same as everyone else.”
Lawyer Emmanuel Bonnemain said the child-minding obligation weren't fair on the artists.
“Most of them are already financially strained,” he said.
“And here, [Town Hall] is adding an extra burden since they will have to do volunteer work during the time they usually create. The plan is also that the kids will be kept by the artists in their studios. But who's going to pay the insurance for the material that the kids are likely to want to use?"
Calls made by The Local to the Fréjus Town Hall were unsuccessful.