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Strike forces Paris museums to close

Published on 03/12/2009
PARIS – The Louvre museum and the Chateau of Versailles remained open however, with visitors to the Louvre being offered half-price admission to make up for the inconveniences of the reduced staff due to the work stoppage.

The Pompidou Centre of modern art was shut for an 11th day after staff failed to reach agreement with culture ministry officials during several meetings held since they walked off the job on November 23.

The National Museum Centre said two popular tourist sites were closed, l’Arc de Triomphe monument at the top of the Champs Elysees and the Sainte-Chapelle, a stunning 13th-century chapel in the heart of Paris.

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was to sit down with union leaders later Wednesday to discuss their demands for scrapping the government’s planned job cuts.

The unions argue that the plan to slash state payrolls by replacing only one out of every two retiring civil servants will severely undermine services at museums.

"How are we supposed to reconcile the desire to ensure Paris attracts more tourists with the reality that there will be fewer resources allowing the city of lights to stand out from the other capitals," said Joseph Thouvenel from the CFTC union at the Pompidou Centre.

Staff fear 400 of the 1,100 jobs at the Pompidou centre, known to Parisians as Beaubourg, will be cut over the next 10 years.

More than 40 percent of staff at the Pompidou Centre are over the age of 50. The legal retirement age in France is 70.

The seven unions representing staff employed by the culture ministry called for the open-ended strike last week just as Paris was getting ready for a rush of visitors during the Christmas holiday season.

France is the world’s top tourism destination, drawing tens of millions of foreign visitors every year.