Strike over France’s pension reform forces shut Louvre museum

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Striking workers block the entry at the glass Pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris as France faces its 44th consecutive day of strikes January 17, 2020.
Striking workers block the entry at the glass Pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris as France faces its 44th consecutive day of strikes January 17, 2020. © Gonzal Fuentes, Reuters

The Louvre museum in Paris was closed Friday as dozens of protesters blocked the entrance to denounce the French government’s plans to overhaul the pension system. The Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit marking the 500th anniversary of the Italian master’s death, which is displayed at the Louvre, was also closed as a result, the museum said. Several dozen protesters, including some Louvre employees, staged the demonstration after an appeal from several hard-left trade unions against President Emmanuel Macron’s planned changes to the retirement system, which they said would “lower everyone’s pensions”. Some protesters were singing “Mona Lisa is on strike, Leonardo is on strike”. It is the first time since the protest movement began on December 5 that the Louvre and the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition were fully closed. About 30,000 people visit the museum every day. The unions are looking for a second wind as the movement starts to flag, with the proportion of workers at national railway operator SNCF falling to 4.6 percent on Friday.

On Thursday, around 187,000 people took part in a sixth day of nationwide protests against the overhaul, according to the interior ministry, well below the 452,000 who turned out for similar demonstrations on January 10. The overhaul aims to forge a single pensions system from the country’s 42 separate regimes, which offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector workers as well as lawyers, physical therapists and even Paris Opera employees. Critics say it will effectively force millions of people to work longer for a smaller pension.

Visitors booing

Some videos on social media showed angry visitors booing at protesters to express their disappointment. The weeks of strikes and protests have hobbled public transportation and disrupted schools, hospitals, courthouses and even opera houses and the Eiffel Tower. Major French retailers Fnac Darty and Casino said that business in France was badly affected by the strikes, especially during the holiday season. Fnac Darty said the strikes cost it around €70 million ($78 million) in lost revenue. Casino cut its forecast for earnings growth in France, where it does more than half its business, to 5 percent in 2019, from a previous 10 percent. The company estimates that the strikes in December cost it about €80 million in lost revenue . While the number of striking workers has diminished since the movement, the country’s trains and the Paris subway were still disrupted Friday. The Louvre, which received 9.6 million visitors last year, was already forced to close some galleries last month due to the strike. Management said Friday that ticket holders would be reimbursed, and that the doors could open again later in the day if the strikers disperse. (FRANCE 24)