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Musée d’Orsay still closed due to strike

October 21, 2011 | 12:40 pm

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For the second consecutive day, visitors hoping to glimpse the reopened, renovated spaces in the Musée d’Orsay were greeted with closed doors Friday, due to a worker’s strike.

A translated sign on the entrance read in English, “The Orsay museum is ready to open its doors.  But no additional staff has been provided!  On the contrary, the amount of agents continues to decline … the situation is not acceptable.”

The strike may continue Saturday, depending on a vote by union members in the morning.

The unveiling of the two-year, $27-million renovation was supposed to take place on Thursday, but some 34 employees went on strike against expected job cuts they said were a slap in the face in light of ambitious, costly additions to the museum they believe require an increase of personnel.  The museum was not able to operate without sufficient staff, and was forced to close.

“It’s pretty ugly, because they invested in certain things [the renovation], and pulled too hard on the other side. So there’s no balance,” said a 30-year-old restaurant worker for the museum, who was not on strike, but supported the cause.  She would not provide her name for fear of negative repercussions from her employers.  “Their renovations cost how many millions? Enormous!  They could have hired a few more people. But here, they’ve done something beautiful on one side, and something that wasn’t right on the other.”

To visitors, the closure of the museum on the week of its grand unveiling of new exhibit spaces and rarely seen works brought from storage and loans was a particularly bitter pill to swallow.

“We already got our tickets, and we were very excited to go,” said Rosanne Ciamond, visiting from Chicago.  “Coming to the opening was at the top of our list.  And I think that to close the museum now is a real punishment."

The Musée d’Orsay, along with other state-funded museums here, has been forced to steadily cut jobs as part of recent government efforts at debt reduction.

“The workers here contribute to the spreading of French culture internationally,” said the national secretary for the General Confederation of Labor union, Frederic Sorbier.  “The museum is happy to show off its new spaces with a lot of pomp, but they say nothing about a steady decrease in employees who are already overworked,” due to some 20 job cuts each year over the last three years, he said.  At least 15 posts are expected to be lost in 2012, according to the union, one of those leading the strike.

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--Devorah Lauter, from Paris

Photo: A view of the new Impressionist Gallery, withe Monet's paintings and a Rodin sculpture. Credit: Devorah Lauter

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