France's Louvre museum reopened on Thursday after a staff walkout in protest against pickpockets forced the museum to close for a day. Employees say the pickpockets are growing in number and becoming increasingly aggressive.
Paris's Louvre museum reopened its doors to the public on Thursday after a walkout by staff in protest against gangs of pickpockets operating at the world famous art gallery.
Around 20 police officers have now been drafted in to patrol the museum in response to staff concerns, Louvre officials told AFP.
Disappointed tourists were turned away from the famed museum on Wednesday, which normally welcomes some 10 million visitors a year.
A Louvre spokesman said about 200 workers "exercised their right to walk out". Museum management said it had already lodged a complaint with prosecutors in December 2012 and demanded greater police presence.
According to Christelle Guyader, a representative of the SUD union, Louvre staff are increasingly fearful while on the job. "They are sometimes scared to work because they are confronted by organised gangs of pickpockets that are more aggressive, who enter the museum with minors who are given free entry into the museum," she said. "Even when they are arrested by the police, they return a few days later."
Several workers reported experiencing "spitting, insults, threats and beatings". They said they reported several of these incidents, but the complaints "were not followed by action".
Museum staff gathered outside the Ministry of Culture after their meeting with representatives of the CGT, FO and SUD unions on Wednesday, and a delegation was eventually received. The ministry told AFP afterward that it is "committed to addressing the problem, along with its counterparts in the interior and justice ministries, including the possibility of strengthening security near the museum".
In its December complaint to the prosecutor, Louvre management reportedly cited some 150 separate complaints. The pickpockets are thought to be mainly from Eastern Europe.
"There have always been pickpockets at the Louvre and in the tourist areas of central Paris, but for the past year and a half they have become increasingly violent and their modus operandi is evolving," said Sophia Aguirre, a supervisor at the museum and a member of SUD.
"Nothing stops them," she said.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-04-10