Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

French museums closed by civil service strike

Striking staff outside Louvre, 3 Dec 09
Pickets stood outside the Louvre's glass pyramid

A strike by French museum workers has shut the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles - two of the most popular attractions for visitors to Paris.

The Musee d'Orsay, housing world-famous Impressionist paintings, is also shut.

The protest is over French government plans to trim the civil service by replacing only one in two retiring staff.

The Pompidou Centre, housing a rich collection of modern art, has been closed by the action since 23 November.

Standing outside the Louvre's landmark glass pyramid, Gavin Lam and his girlfriend Ranma Mo, from China's southern province of Guangzhou, were disappointed not to see acclaimed works such as the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.

"There are some great paintings inside, some masterpieces," Mr Lam told AFP news agency on the couple's maiden trip to Paris. "Some people come a long way - if people are striking, surely they'll be disappointed."

Also affected by the strike were the famed Arc de Triomphe war monument, the Rodin museum and the Gustave Moreau museum.

Talks between union leaders and France's Culture Minister, Frederic Mitterrand, on Wednesday evening failed to resolve the dispute.

Mr Mitterrand said the planned job cuts would go ahead.

"This reform is being enacted by a government that was duly elected," he told France 2 television. "This reform will be implemented."

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