Since it shut its doors on the evening of March 26 at its usual 10pm closing time, the Centre Pompidou has not reopened to the public due to an ongoing strike. Too bad for those hoping to visit its soon-to-close Cy Twombly retrospective.
The terms of the dispute relate to a labor law passed last year, France Inter explained, which mandated that the Pompidou’s salaried contract workers (the vast majority of its employees) would be transitioned to civil servants — as employees of major national institutions would normally be in France. That law is set to go into effect on April 1. While being a civil servant would normally be a more advantageous situation than being a contract worker, Pompidou workers have over the last 40 years negotiated and gone on strike to receive raises and other benefits that they stand to lose when the law goes into effect.
As FNEC-FP-FO, the union that represents the majority of Pompidou employees, explained in a release: “If the workers are made civil servants without maintaining their past gains, some could see their wages drop by up to 20% or 30%.” The situation was made all the more tense by the fact that Pompidou leadership only revealed the changes to employees on March 7 — prompting a first day of strikes on March 9 — less than a month before its implementation.
“FNEC-FP-FO has always defended the designation of workers civil servants, but doing so cannot be a pretext for destroying the benefits they’ve accrued,” Jérôme Lagavre, the union’s federal secretary, said in a statement. “The Ministry of Culture must either accept to negotiate guarantees so that all existing gains are maintained, which would require postponing the transition of titles, or the current system must be maintained.” FNEC-FP-FO says 300 to 400 of the Pompidou’s 1,038 salaried employees are striking, while museum leadership estimates that only 60 to 100 workers are participating.
The labor action, now in its fourth day, coincided with the museum’s annual gala dinner, which more than 800 of the Pompidou’s patrons had planned to attend, but was canceled at the last minute, Le Figaro reported. According to Le Parisien, the €900-per-seat (~$962) dinner was expected to raise a total of €450,000 (~$481,000) to be used to acquire new works for the permanent collection of the Pompidou (which is France’s national modern art museum), or roughly one quarter of the institution’s acquisitions budget for the year.
For now, it’s unclear when the strike will come to an end and if the Pompidou will reopen before the law’s expected enactment on April 1. Those hoping to visit would do well to check the institution’s Twitter page, where it has posted messages every morning this week about its closure.
Update, 4/7/2017: Today, the Centre Pompidou reopened to the public after being closed for 12 consecutive days. According to BFM TV, an agreement was reached between the institution’s leadership and negotiators from the union FNEC-FP-FO that will see all workers retain the gains acquired over the past 40 years of negotiations, while allowing salaried employees to choose to remain contract workers (rather than transitioning to civil servants) if they so wish.