Henry Samuel, Telegraph, May 22, 2015
The Eiffel Tower in Paris was closed on Friday after staff went on strike to protest against marauding pickpockets who they say fleece tourists “daily” and threaten staff.
“The Eiffel Tower is momentarily closed,” read the sign by one of the world’s most visited monuments, as staff said they could no longer cope with therising number of pickpockets operating on the city’s famed “iron lady”, following “several attacks and threats”.
Representatives from among 40 staff refusing to work said they were powerless to prevent gangs of “between four to five” pickpockets, and “sometimes 30 on the monument” at any one time.
“There have always been pickpockets at the Eiffel Tower, but we are now facing an organised network,” said a union representative.
Staff called on management to provide “formal guarantees so that lasting, efficient measures are taken to end this scourge that numerous tourists fall foul of every day”.
They said that high-spending Asian tourists were the most commonly targeted.
Management, protesting staff complained, only went as far as “informing visitors” about the risks but “lacks determination” in tackling the problem, which has become “troublesome for an internationally renowned monument”.
They suggested planting plain-clothed inspectors around the attraction to “catch pickpockets in the act”.
Management said it was already engaged in “active cooperation” with police to stamp out the problem.
It said it was “sorry that visitors already present are being penalised” by the closure.
By late afternoon, the tower was reopened, but staff said this was “only temporary” and more strike action may follow in the coming days.
Paris will deploy 26,000 police officers this summer in a dozen top tourist sites around the French capital to fight against tourist theft.
In 2013, staff at the Louvre museum refused to work for the same reason, prompting police to beef up patrols–a move that helped lower the number of thefts.
Inaugurated in 1889, the Eiffel Tower, which stands at 324 metres tall, welcomed seven million visitors last year, three quarters of them foreigners.