A Massive Strike in France Shutters Paris Museums—and Could Disrupt Business-as-Usual Through the Weekend

Protests over changes to the country’s pension system caused partial closings of portions of the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, and other institutions.

The Louvre Pyramid located in the main courtyard, the Cour Napoleon. Photo: Jean-Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images.

Yesterday’s strikes in France—with trade unions in the country estimated that 1.5 million people participated—carried over to today, in a standoff over the French government’s determination to overhaul the country’s complex pension system.

The protests are reminiscent of the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) movement—named for the safety vests used by manual laborers—that erupted in 2018 over income inequality and a proposed gas tax increase that would disproportionately affect working-class families.

Thursday’s strikes hamstrung the country, shutting down much of the Metro, as well as hampering domestic flights and Eurostar travel. The strikes were led by public sector workers, who stand to lose the most from the pension reform, with many trade unions calling for the protests to continue.

Paris has many national museums, and most of those museums had full or partial closures on Thursday. With protests set to continue, museums today either had amended hours or were only partially open. 

The Louvre closed much of their permanent collection, though access to its blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition remained. “The museum is open today, Friday 6 December,” the Louvre tweeted today. “Due to public transport strikes, some exhibition rooms will remain closed. Visitors with time slot bookings will be able to access the #ExpoLéonard.”

The Grand Palais, the Musée de l’Orangerie, the Musée d’Orsay, the Petit Palais, and the Delacroix Museum, among others, took a similar approach, leaving temporary exhibitions open, with some museums closing early on Friday.

“Due to the national strike, the Musée d’Orsay is partially open today, Friday 6 December,” the Musée d’Orsay tweeted. “Only the ground floor nave and the exhibition #DegasOpera” are accessible. Please accept our apology for the inconvenience.”

The Musée d’Orsay went a step further, acknowledging that normal operations might be “disrupted” through the weekend.

 Palais de Tokyo also nodded to the uncertainty, tweeting, “Due to the strike action, the Palais de Tokyo will be exceptionally open from 12h to 19h, Friday 06 December 2019. This decision will be re-evaluated the following days depending on the evolution of the situation.”

Museums around the country were closed or partially closed on Thursday, but many had re-opened by Friday, including the Palace of Versailles

Labor unions called for a larger strike to take place on Tuesday, and the government shows no signs of backing down. Édouard Philippe, France’s prime minister, said in a televised address on Friday that citizens would have to work “a little longer,” referring to a proposed raising of the retirement age from 62 to 65. President Emmanuel Macron’s government wants to streamline the county’s current 42 different pension schemes into a single points-based system that will apply to every worker in both the public and private sectors. France is considered to have one of the best retirement plans in the world, but the system faces deficits in the coming years.

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