December 6, 2009 / 4:02 PM / 9 years ago

Most Paris museums open, strikers consider options

PARIS (Reuters) - Most top Paris museums were open on Sunday but unions said a strike against government cost cuts could resume next week, closing the doors of major attractions.

The modernist Pompidou Center, whose workers have led the demonstrations, was shut for the fourteenth day in a row.

But all the other top draws, such as the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay art galleries, opened their doors to avoid angering the public. Entry to museums in the French capital is free on the first Sunday of every month.

“They decided to make a gesture toward the public. This strike is not against the public,” said a spokesman for the culture branch of the powerful CGT union.

However, he said union workers would meet on Monday and strikes were expected to resume.

“There is a pause in the action but meetings are planned for Monday to restart the movement,” he said.

The unions are angry about a government plan to fill only half the vacancies left by retiring officials. They say the reduced staffing threatens the security of the priceless art.

They also complain that a new emphasis on costs and ticket sales is overshadowing cultural worth as a measure of success.

The Culture Ministry has said it hopes to have a dialogue with the unions soon to ensure all museums are open to visitors.

The government is restructuring its culture sector as part of broader budget cuts, arguing it is improving quality while controlling costs through audits and other initiatives.

Tourism accounts for around 6 percent of gross domestic product in France, though the outlook for this year is gloomy as crisis-hit Europeans, Americans and Japanese stay at home.

France’s museums play a crucial part in pulling in the crowds. Last year, some 80 million people visited France; the Louvre alone sees about 6 million visitors a year.

Union activists have complained that even before the new measures, many museums had to seal rooms and display fewer artworks to cope with a lack of staff.

Reporting by Laure Bretton and Anna Willard; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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