Centre Pompidou Workers End Three Months of Strikes With a Major Win

"I wanted to put an end to this stalemate," declared France's new culture minister Rachida Dati.

"On strike" signs and banners are seen at the entrance doors of the Centre Pompidou (National Modern Art Museum) in Paris, on November 16, 2023. Photo: ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images.

After striking for three months, workers at the Centre Pompidou in Paris are celebrating a major win. The museum finally came to an agreement with two labor unions, CFDT and Force Ouvrière (FO), it was announced yesterday. France’s new culture minister Rachida Dati played a decisive role in bringing the stand-off to an end.

The strike began in October in anticipation of the contemporary art museum closing next year to undergo a major five-year renovation. With the reopening not expected until 2030, about 1,000 staffers with roles in administration, collections care, and security feared that their jobs could be at risk.

In November, the unions wrote a letter to France’s Ministry for Culture decrying the lack of transparency around what workers can expect once the Pompidou begins closing in stages this fall. Workers were also angry to see their director Laurent LeBon jet-setting to cultural institutions around the world to advertise the museum’s collection and organize lucrative loan deals that will help fund the reopening.

Yesterday, January 29, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Lebon and representatives for the CFDT and FO. The museum and the ministry have promised to guarantee the workers’ jobs during the planned closure, but have retained the right to reallocate employees to different positions at their same skill level. Some of the museum’s operations will be temporarily relocated, with its library moving to the Lumière building and a potential partnership in the works that would see its exhibition programming move to the Grand Palais.

Three other unions that were involved in the strike, CGT, Sud, and Unsa, were not present at the negotiation and are therefore not currently members of the monitoring committee that will meet three times a year to make sure the commitments are being upheld.

“As soon as I arrived at the Ministry of Culture, I wanted to put an end to this stalemate,” Dati wrote on X. “One hundred days on strike is unprecedented in the history of the Centre Pompidou. I would like to thank the staff and management for their spirit of responsibility.”

Dati has been praised for her involvement by union members, including CFDT’s culture general secretary Alexis Fritche, who said her involvement had been “a decisive factor in the success of these negotiations,” according to Le Monde.

This may be a strategic coup for the new minister, who was appointed as part of a wider cabinet reshuffle on January 11. Elsewhere in France’s media, she is already facing scrutiny over her failure to declare visits to Azerbaijan, a dictatorship that she is reported to have close ties with.

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