French Labor Union Strike Forces Eiffel Tower To Close

REUTERS/Charles Platiau

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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Striking workers kept the Eiffel Tower — a famous French landmark — closed for a second straight day Wednesday, in protest over pay and working conditions.

“Due to a strike, the Eiffel Tower will remain closed today,” a sign read at the base of the tower. Management and workers are locked in a dispute over an upcoming paint job of the iconic structure, which workers say risks damaging their health, according to French news outlet AFP.

The General Confederation of Labour (CGT), one of France’s largest trade unions with over 710,000 members, demanded 51 “items of change,” which was rejected by the Eiffel Tower’s management company, the “Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel” (SETE).

The closure of one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks is another blow to the city’s struggling tourism industry. The closure of the tower and the park around the structure has already led to a rat infestation. Terrorism, floods, labor unrest and an ongoing refugee crisis is stifling tourism in the “City of Lights,” and news of the ongoing strike will only serve as an additional deterrent to potential travelers.

“I wonder if they (the strikers) really understand the current context,” Anne Yannic, director of SETE, said to French news outlet France24. She said that visits to the tower are expected to drop from 7 million visitors in 2015 to 6 million in 2016.

Yannic said that the management company avoided layoffs so far but “cannot afford extra hires,” which is one of the demands of the striking workers.

The union contends that an upcoming paint job to the structure presented health risks and complained about the “deliberate absence of transparency” by SETE on key decisions relating to the functioning of the monument.

The operation (to paint the Eiffel Tower) would be “unprecedented in scale,” CGT spokesman Denis Vavasorri said Tuesday. The 300 striking workers want management to bring in additional workers to assist with the project.

It is noteworthy that SETE was fined close to $20,000 for failing to protect the employees from exposure to high levels of lead during renovations in 2012.

Numerous attractions throughout the city, including the park next to the Eiffel Tower and Champs de Mars on the Seine River, have been closed due to an infestation of rats, according to Express UK.

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