Several employees of the Garonne theater denounce “the anxiety-provoking climate” which reigns within this Toulouse institution and the brutal management of its director Jacky Ohayon, in charge for more than thirty years. Despite his retirement, effective since January 31 and the mistrust of his team, the founder of the Garonne does not seem to want to leave his post.
It has nothing to do with staging. For several months, the Garonne theater and its team have been living in a crisis situation. Five of its members have announced their departure for the month of June. And since February 14, sick leave has followed one another from permanent employees. They say they are “suffering”, “abused” and denounce “an anxiety-provoking work atmosphere” and the “authoritarian decisions” of Jacky Ohayon who has run the establishment since its creation in 1988. In a letter sent to the inspection of the work, employees point to “the malicious and manipulative behavior” of their director. They evoke “verbal violence”, “sexist and insulting remarks”. Arrived almost ten years ago in the Garonne, an employee decided in March to exercise her right of withdrawal to alert once again the office of the association Théâtre Garonne, chaired by Gilbert Casamatta, on the deleterious climate and the psychosocial risk situation. To shed light on what is happening behind the scenes of the Garonne, an HR audit, still in progress, has been carried out.
“Jacky Ohayon works in cycles. There are periods when everything is going well and periods of great violence. It’s always been like that. Many competent people don’t stay in the Garonne because it’s untenable to work with him. Since the end of December, we have been in the midst of a crisis of violence and of all power”, says this employee. The young woman remembers an episode during which a colleague was pushed Jacky Ohayon into a fit of anger. She also remembers the day she had to separate him from a director he was physically threatening after insulting a member of his artistic team. “He can talk with impunity about weak links in the team who just have to leavetell a colleague that she is not worthy of working alongside her or introduce us one day as a shitty team and the next day like the best he ever had,” she continued.
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The increasingly tense climate within the theater forced the association’s office to organize a crisis meeting on April 20. In video, its members then informed the employees of the Garonne that their director had asserted his retirement rights on January 31, 2023. “While they were constantly alerted, they left Jacky Ohayon the right to exercise his position and his relationship of subordination with the team, to set up projects for next season. They favored managing an administrative problem rather than protecting a suffering team with concrete measures. We lied to the team and to the guardianship of the theater who have been notified of his departure very recently”, indignantly this employee. During this same meeting of April 20, the office asked Jacky Ohayon “to withdraw from the theater and its management” and to no longer come to the Garonne, except on performance evenings so as to be able to “maintain the links which unite him to the artists”.
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Ohayon: “A delicate but not dramatic situation”
By decision of the bureau, the day-to-day management of the establishment has been temporarily entrusted to the management committee, made up of three people. But on May 12, the board of directors of the theater, also chaired by Gilbert Casamatta, finally appointed the administrator of the theater to take over the interim. At the same time, he granted a deadline to Jacky Ohayon who, according to employees, would have asked for “four days” to prove with the help of his lawyers that he was still director. A new board of directors has thus been set for this Wednesday at 11 a.m. On the eve of this meeting, the founder of the Théâtre Garonne declared that he wanted to wait for the outcome of the CA to react. “I can’t communicate about what the people who contacted you blame me for. A situation like this is not dramatic, I haven’t experienced many in my career, but it is delicate. “, he admitted.