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Because the Eiffel Tower has been closed for five days

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Because the Eiffel Tower has been closed for five days

For the fifth consecutive day the Eiffel Tower in Paris will remain closed due to a strike organized by the two main French unions representing the employees of the Société d’exploitation de la tour Eiffel (SETE), the company that manages the tower and whose majority shareholder is the municipality of Paris. The Confédération générale du travail (CGT) and Force ouvrière (FO) have denounced the municipality’s poor financial management of the monument, an economic model based on the “search for profitability at all costs and in the short term”, and have called for new investments for the necessary restoration works on the tower.

The protest had already led to a strike in December 2023, on the hundredth anniversary of the death of Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who led the construction at the end of the 19th century. In recent days the strike is taking place in the midst of the winter school holidays and five months before the start of the summer Olympics and Paralympics, which will take place in Paris between July and August 2024.

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The unions that organized the strike they criticize the municipality of Paris because it intends to increase the amount paid each year by the company that manages the tower, SETE, to the municipality. This amount had already increased from 8 to 16 million euros per year between 2021 and 2022 and according to the new agreements it should reach 50 million in the next few years. The company’s finances, say the unions, have already entered into crisis during the years of the pandemic which led to prolonged periods of closure with lost revenues amounting to around 130 million euros.

To deal with the crisis, SETE had been recapitalized with 60 million euros in 2021, but the situation worsened due to the additional costs linked to the complicated renovation works of the tower, which proved to be more expensive than the original budget, and after the finding traces of lead in the structure. Furthermore, according to the unions, the building has several points of corrosion visible to the naked eye: «It is clearly in a state of decay. As you approach the bottom of the tower you can see traces of rust.”

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To contain the increase in expenses, the municipality has finally foreseen a 20 percent increase in the price of visiting tickets. In 2017 the entry price had already gone from 17 to 25 euros.

The increase in the amount that SETE pays to the municipality, that of the ticket price and the issue of the budget linked to the renovation works are found in a modification of the contract with which the municipality delegated the management of the tower to SETE until 2030 , and must be approved by next summer. The unions, however, accused the municipality of wanting to “seek profit at all costs and in the short term” and asked to find a compromise on this modification of the contract to guarantee the sustainability of the monument, of the company that manages it and of the possible consequences on the workers and on workers. To counterbalance the unexpected costs and their consequences on prices, the two unions CGT and FO have also proposed the creation of a “special fund in anticipation of the colossal expenses that will be necessary in the coming decades”.

Around 200 of SETE’s 360 permanent employees participated in the strike in recent days. On Thursday they organized a demonstration in front of the tower carrying signs reading: “Tour Eiffel in danger, fares too high”, “The municipality is gorging itself, sorry Gustave Eiffel”.

In the days before the closure, the tower had welcomed between 17 thousand and 20 thousand visitors a day: in the five days in which it remained closed there could therefore have been a potential loss of around 90 thousand admissions.

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