Mont Saint Michel Rector Says the Site is Becoming an Elite Space for the Wealthy

DSC_0209The Rector of the abbey at Mont Saint Michel has taken the unprecedented step of speaking out in the row over staff buses and increased charges at the Normandy tourist attraction.

Father Andre Fournier, one of the oldest inhabitants of Mont Saint Michel, has appealed for the organisation responsible for the site and transport provider Transdev to come to an amicable agreement over the row that has seen the top tourist attraction closed due to a strike by staff.

For several weeks staff have been on strike after Transdev removed the free mini buses that took them, inhabitants and disabled visitors from the car park to the foot of the mount. As a result access to the abbey at the top of the Mont has been free but last week it was closed on Thursday as the strike action escalated.

Now in a letter to the Syndicate responsible for the Bay of Mont Saint Michel, Father Fournier has expressed his anger at what has been happening. ‘What has happened at Mont Saint Michel is irrational, unjust and regrettable. The Syndicate and Transdev have failed to take into account the reality of Mont Saint Michel. It is a place to visit, a place of pilgrimage, of heritage and of cultural importance,’ the letter says. He calls for them to arrange conciliation talks so that the matter can be resolved as quickly as possible.

Father Fournier is also upset by the increase in charges for visitors. The car park charge, for example, has increased from €8.50 to €12. ‘This place is full of history and religious meaning and is being changed into an elite space reserved for the wealthy. The mount is primarily a Christian shrine where many pilgrims come to seek advice, to worship,’ he explained.

He was upset that it had to close last week. Normally it is only closed on two day of the year, Christmas Day and May Day. ‘It was not possible to come and light a candle or simply pray,’ he added.

Meanwhile, the union backing the workers, CGT Culture, said it is happy to attend talks and welcomed the decision by a court in Coutances to throw out a legal application by Transdev to get a court ban on striking workers from blocking routes as part of their protest and opening barriers so that visitors can leave the car park without paying.

‘The court decision means that the legal action by Transdev stops unless the company tries to seek another legal jurisdiction,’ said union secretary Thomas Pucci. He revealed that he had a meeting with an advisor of the Culture Minister in Paris but there was nothing new to report.

But the Manche Prefect has granted an order that the striking workers can only stand on the pavements when they are protesting, not the roads where the shuttle buses taking visitors to and from Mont Saint Michel run.

Transdev said in a statement that it does not plan to take any other kind of legal action as long at the striking workers obey the order and do not disrupt the movement of the shuttles. ‘Transdev wants to work normally. It is summer time and visitors are returning to Mont Saint Michel. We want to provide a service under normal conditions,’ it added.

About Ray Clancy

Ray Clancy has 20 years experience in journalism including contributing articles to print and on-line publications such as, Property World Middle East and websites for estate agents. She has also written for the Daily Telegraph and Mail on Sunday.

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