British director Ken Loach has refused a lifetime achievement award at the upcoming Turin Film Festival in protest of a labour dispute at the National Film Museum in Italy.

The filmmaker was scheduled to be honoured with the prestigious Gran Premio Torino trophy for his career success, but he has pulled out of the prizegiving gala after learning workers at the museum had lost wages, while others had been fired in a money-saving effort.

Loach, who has examined social issues including labour disputes in his often gritty movies, was appalled to discover the museum's cleaning and security employees were mistreated after challenging salary cuts.

In a letter to festival bosses on Wednesday (21Nov12), the director announced he would not be attending the gala, stating he felt "compelled to refuse the prize," adding, "The workers who were worst paid and therefore most vulnerable lost their jobs for opposition to a reduction in pay. It is unfair that the poorest pay the price for an economic crisis they are not responsible for.

"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."

Museum bosses have fired back, stating, "It displeases us that a great film director, someone we have always admired, has been badly informed... (in a way) that does not reflect in any way the reality."

A scheduled screening of Loach's new film The Angels’ Share at the festival has been cancelled.

The week-long Turin Film Festival will celebrate it's 30th year when it opens on Friday (23Nov12) with a screening of Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet.