Louvre workers stage walkout, protest against aggressive pickpockets

Louvre workers stage walkout, protest against aggressive pickpockets
Tourists eager to see the famous Mona Lisa were turned away from Paris’ Louvre museum on Wednesday after 200 staff members staged a walkout. The employees protested against pickpockets who target both tourists and museum workers.

Management sources at the museum told France 24 that the workers “exercised their right to walk out.”

"They are sometimes scared to work because they are confronted by organized gangs of pickpockets that are more aggressive, who enter the museum with minors who are given free entry into the museum," SUD union representative Christelle Guyader said. "Even when they are arrested by the police, they return a few days later."

Guyader added that several workers have experienced “spitting, insults, threats, and beatings.” Employees say they lodged several complaints, which were “not followed by action.”

"There have always been pickpockets at the Louvre and in the tourist areas of central Paris, but for the past year and a half they have become increasingly violent and their modus operandi is evolving," said Sophia Aguirre, a supervisor at the museum and a member of SUD. "Nothing stops them.”

The pickpockets are thought to be mainly from Central Europe.

Museum management along with representatives of the CGT, FO, and SUD unions gathered outside the Ministry of Culture after a Wednesday meeting, demanding a response from the French government.  

The ministry said it is “committed to addressing the problem, along with its counterparts in the interior and justice ministries, including the possibility of strengthening security near the museum,” union sources told AFP.  

The museum said it previously lodged a December complaint with prosecutors demanding greater police presence around the area, citing 150 separate incidents.  

Louvre spokeswoman Sophie Grange told AP that she is unable to say when the museum will reopen.

The Louvre claims to be the world’s most-visited museum, attracting nearly 10 million visitors last year.