Staff strike forces iconic Eiffel Tower to shut down for tourists


shutdown

PARIS: Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower, one of the world’s top tourist attractions, was closed on Wednesday on the 100th anniversary of its creator’s death, shrouded in a one-day strike by its staff.

The one-day stoppage was to protest against “the current way it is managed”, the hard-left CGT union [General Confederation of Labour, France] said in a statement. The tower’s operator SETE was “headed for disaster”, it said.

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Workers, represented by the CGT union, protested against the management running the tower on a business model that was “too ambitious and unsustainable”, alleging inflated visitor estimates and insufficient funding for crucial maintenance and construction.

The union criticised SETE, the tower’s operator, for its ambitious business model, claiming it underestimated construction costs and overestimated future visitor numbers. SETE apologised to visitors, advising those with tickets for Wednesday “to check their email” for updates on their booking.

With Paris’s most famous landmark attracting nearly seven million annual visitors, with around three-quarters being foreigners, as per its website, the CGT argued that basing future budgets on a projected 7.4 million was unrealistic, as “this level has never been reached”.

During the Covid pandemic, these numbers dropped sharply due to closures and travel restrictions, but recovered to 5.9 million in 2022.

Stephane Dieu, a CGT representative, highlighted the urgent need for significant repairs, “The Eiffel Tower is old, it’s an old lady of 130 years. We have lifts here that were built in 1899. Unless a financial deal is reached with the city of Paris, we will run out of cash in 2025, despite our visitor numbers.”

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While disappointed tourists lamented the missed opportunity to ascend the 1,083-feet structure, some expressed understanding for the workers’ actions. “We came here this morning to visit this magnificent Eiffel Tower,” said Alessandro Monaco, 40, an Italian tourist. “We were gobsmacked to see that there was a strike, that was a bit tough. It’s a real pity,” he said.

December 27 is the death anniversary of the French civil engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the iconic tower who died in 1923, at the age of 91. He created his reputation as a builder of railway bridges, but also used his metal wizardry to build the Pest railway station in Hungary, lighthouses in Finland and Madagascar, the structure of the Saigon Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City and the iron framework of the Statue of Liberty in New York. – INP

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