Sad day for Paris tourists: Strike closes Eiffel Tower

AP News
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Posted: Dec 13, 2016 12:09 PM
Sad day for Paris tourists: Strike closes Eiffel Tower

PARIS (AP) — The Eiffel Tower — which is normally open every single day of the year — closed Tuesday because of a strike over salaries and working conditions.

With Paris tourism already suffering, the monument's management apologized to visitors stranded at the gates of the tower, lamenting an ill-timed blow to the city's image.

Unions presented management with 51 demands and have held repeated meetings in recent days with officials from the company that manages the tower, SETE.

When the management refused all demands related to new hires and pay raises, the unions announced one-day strike Tuesday, according to SETE director Anne Yannic. Unions will decide later whether to extend the strike through Wednesday.

The strike comes as Paris is struggling to revive tourism after a string of deadly attacks and a year marred by floods, violent labor protests and polluted air.

"I wonder if they really understand the current context," Yannic told The Associated Press, saying the strikers are "disconnected from reality."

The Tower saw the number of visitors decline from about 7 million in 2015 to an estimated 6 million this year, and forecasts a corresponding 14 percent drop in revenue, she said. Yannic said the company has avoided layoffs so far but "we cannot afford extra hires."

She said the company accepted some of the 51 demands and are negotiating others. Demands include more communication to staff about future strategy and about workers' committees. The average annual salary for the Tower's approximately 300 workers is 61,000 euros ($65,000) a year, according to the company.

Representatives of the CGT and FO unions among Tower personnel did not immediately comment.

Dejected tourists milled about the plaza beneath the tower, which rises 276 meters (906 feet) over the Seine River.

"I come from Mexico and I am here for only two days, only to find out that the Eiffel tower is closed and I won't be able to go," said Paolina Herrmann, a 22-year-old from Guadalajara.

Fikriya Akachar of Rotterdam rallied her family to come with her to the tower so she could experience it despite her fear of heights.

"We all came here, had some vacation days from work, and then they say no you cannot. I was disappointed," she said.

But Nicole and Michael Denning of Sydney said Paris remains a lovely city for tourists.

"It's still magnificent, so we are happy, very happy," Nicole Denning said.

"It is magnificent, it does not matter where you go," Michael Denning said. "We are pretty happy to be just walking around, enjoying the sights."