April 9, 2009 / 7:36 PM / 10 years ago

Tourists stew as strikers block Eiffel Tower

PARIS (Reuters) - French strikers severely restricted access to the Eiffel Tower on Thursday, angering tourists who hoped to see one of the world’s top tourist attractions on their Easter breaks.

The 300-meter (984-foot) tower was entirely closed on Wednesday due to the strike by around 300 workers, employees of the company that manages France’s best known tourist attraction. They are protesting over working conditions.

One of the tower’s four pillars was open for a few hours on Thursday before the same group shut it down.

Some tourists waited for hours for a chance to ride the elevators to the viewing platform to look out over Paris.

“We arrived this afternoon and it is our first stop at one of the sites so it’s quite frustrating actually having to wait this long,” said Scottish tourist Caroline Doyle.

Security workers also joined in the strike action, demanding a pay increase.

“The cost of visiting the Eiffel Tower has just gone up, but the salaries haven’t. That’s not normal,” said Karim Herzallah, a member of the CGT workers union. The entry tariff rose to 13 euros ($17) from 12 on April 4.

Negotiations between the unions and management are set to continue on Friday.

Around 500 people work at the Eiffel Tower, which welcomed 7 million visitors last year, 75 percent of them foreigners. It was built in 1889 for an international exhibition.

France has seen a string of protests since the beginning of the year by workers complaining about President Nicolas Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.

Angry employees of several companies have also taken bosses hostage to demand better conditions or an end to job cuts.

($1 = 0.76 euros)

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by Anna Willard, Editing by Jonathan Wright

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