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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-12-03

Many of Paris' top museums and tourist attractions closed on Wednesday leaving tourists visiting the capital disappointed. Museum workers have gone on strike to protest against job cuts.

AFP - Many of Paris's most popular museums and tourist sites including the Musee d'Orsay and the Arc de Triomphe were closed Wednesday after staff went on strike to protest against planned job cuts.

The Louvre museum and the Chateau of Versailles remained open, however, with visitors to the Louvre being offered half-price admission to make up for the inconvenience caused by reduced staffing during the stoppage.

The Pompidou Centre of modern art was shut for an 11th day after staff failed to reach an agreement with culture ministry officials during several meetings held since they walked off the job on November 23.

Authorities said two of Paris's most popular tourist sites were closed -- the Arc de Triomphe war monument at the top of the Champs Elysees and the Sainte-Chapelle, a stunning 13th-century chapel in the heart of Paris.

Six of France's 31 national museums were closed, as were six of the 96 national monuments, officials said.

In Paris, visitors also found themselves locked out of the Rodin museum and the Gustave Moreau museum, while some chateaux outside Paris were also shut down, including Azay-Le-Rideau in the Loire Valley.

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand was to meet union leaders later Wednesday to discuss their demands for scrapping planned job cuts.

Unions argue the plan to slash state payrolls by replacing only one out of every two retiring civil servants will severely undermine services at museums.

"How are we supposed to reconcile the desire to ensure Paris attracts more tourists with the reality that there will be fewer resources allowing the city of lights to stand out from the other capitals?" said Joseph Thouvenel from the CFTC union at the Pompidou Centre.

Staff fear 400 of the 1,100 jobs at the Pompidou Centre, known to Parisians as Beaubourg, will be cut over the next 10 years.

More than 40 percent of staff at the Pompidou Centre are over the age of 50. The legal retirement age in France is 70.

The seven unions representing staff employed by the culture ministry called for the open-ended strike last week just as Paris was getting ready for a rush of visitors during the Christmas holiday season.

France is the world's top tourism destination, drawing tens of millions of foreign visitors every year.

Date created : 2009-12-02