State Museums Hit by Strikes

photo: bistro wepler, place clichy

The Café Wepler - a busy Place de Clichy landmark.

Paris' City Museums Remain Open

Paris:- Sunday, 23. May 1999:- This Pentecôte weekend, national museums such as Versailles, and the Louvre and Orsay in Paris, were supposed to have had their strikes eased, but visitors often arrived to face locked doors.

Meanwhile, other museums such as the Jeu de Paume and the Orangerie were being besieged by long lines, and entry to these is sometimes free.

The strikes at the state museums and other institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale and the Archives Nalionales have been going on for a while.

State museum workers are demanding that the Ministry of Culture hire a 1,000 new full-time employees. Union spokesmen say under-staffing causes poor service, both in reception areas and in sanitation facilities.

It is difficult to report about which museums, monuments and other services are being affected by strikes because the staffers are making daily decisions about what is open or closed.

What should be made clear is that none of the museums and galleries operated by the city of Paris have been affected by the strikes. The Tour Eiffel is a private concern, so it is open - while the Arc de Triomphe is a national monument and is therefore closed.

TV-News has shown some very upset museum visitors who have come to Paris during the 'Ponts of May' only to find the museums of their choice locked up. The unions involved usually inform the daily papers in advance, so buying a copy of one of the morning papers might give you a clue about what is open or shut.

Bonjour 'A NOUS PaRIS!'

With the catchy sub-title of 'L'Hebdo du Métro' the RATP launched its own weeklyscan: ratp weekly, a nous paris paper for its millions of above-and-below ground customers a few weeks ago. Unlike all of the RATP's ads for métro and bus events for everything from soup to nuts, this effort has been little publicized.

So it was on Friday, going up to Clichy, that I found a recent copy - last Monday's - lying on the floor of a métro wagon. The station agent where I got off, said the paper could be found at the larger of the métro stations on Mondays.

Editorially the new paper contains events in Paris for the week, plus a couple of Metropole-like features, some shopping tips, a personality profile, and some help-wanted ads. There is only one PR page for the métro itself; and in this particular issue it is about the auditions the RATP organizes for the tunnel performers.

The paper is not numbered so I don't know which issue I've got. I think they are testing the water, before making the circulation more general. As its editors point out, there are some 300 'events' in Paris each day, and a métro paper is a handy way to spread the word.

The 'Ponts of May' - Part II

The insult caused by the authorities' inability to control the school calendar - the wildly incompatible dates for long weekends, especially in May - has had injury added to it in the form of fines levied on parents who may have elected to have their kids out of school so the family can have the long weekends together.

Thirty-three years ago the fine for a day's absenteeism was fixed at a maximum of 40 francs; today it is 1000 francs. Another penalty the authorities can impose, is cutting off the family allowance - which was recently cut off for well-off families, but has since been restored for all.

The strange thing is, all concerned act as if the decrees about which are the days-off, are dictated by fate. As reported last week, the Minister for Education was thinking about thinking about the problem - but this week there is 'no comment.'

Some of this is based on the Republican idea - dated 28. March 1882 - of free but compulsory education for all. I have been surprised to learn that there are, in fact, two 'formulas' of this.

The most common is called 'classique' and this consists of having children enrolled full-time in state or privatephoto: secours catholoque, aid korsovo schools. The other seems to have no particular name and consists of informing the local town or city hall that you are going to teach your kids at home.

A 'Secours Catholique' truck loaded up with aid for Korsovo in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

From the first year of education 'at home' and every two years thereafter, the student must pass a scrutiny by the town hall, plus some sort of exam every year. If the results are not good, the parents have 15 days to enroll their kids in a full-time school. For not doing so, the fine could be as much as 50,000 francs and there is a possibility of a six months' jail term.

The Minister of Education is studying this 'problem' closely, the Parisien reports. The exact nature of this 'problem' of home study is not mentioned. Could it be that some parents have noticed that the parents of home study kids, exercise the 'Ponts of May' at their convenience?

Beat Cops In Paris are Depressed

On 18. April of this year, the Paris Police Prefecture promoted 12,000 agents of 'public security' and 'judicial police' out of wherever they were working, to walking beats on the streets of Paris.

For this move, the 12,000 coppers were given new uniforms and a new name, 'Police Urbaine de Proximité' or 'PUP' for short. The authorities are very satisfied with their decision.

While one might think an increased police presence in the streets is a good thing, rank and file cops are not so sure. They claim to be undermanned, and under-equipped with radios, cars and sub-stations - and especially with officers who understand their new problems.

The main one may be that their new purpose is to be there to deal with the problems of the Parisians. The specialized police from the PJ are certainly not used to this, andphoto: bistro charlot, bd clichy none are apparently, used to actually walking beats in neighborhoods. Previously, if they were outside, they were static - guarding something or other.

The members of the PJ are mostly investigators and were used to irregular duties and hours. The core of these have been cut in half; and the other half are not having an easy time with either the uniforms or the semi-military controls imposed on beat cops.

Another big bistro, very near the Place de Clichy.

However, it is only a little more than a month since the change took place - nothing like the 117 year duration of the national education's 'Ponts of May' problem. For Parisians one thing is clear - there sure seem to be a lot of cops around these days.

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