Anti-austerity strike closes Eiffel Tower

Crowds at the Eiffel Tower on non-striking days.

PARIS - The Eiffel Tower was forced to close to visitors on Thursday due to a strike by unions opposed to what they see as the "austerity" policies of the French government.

"The Eiffel Tower will be closed until 6 pm (1600 GMT) and will re-open this evening. Ninety per cent of the staff... voted to go on strike to denounce the government's austerity policies," said union representative Stephane Dieu.

Signs have been placed at the bottom of the tower, one of the world's most visited tourist attractions, so that "tourists don't hang around for nothing," Dieu added.

The "Iron Lady" attracts around seven million visitors a year, of which nearly nine in 10 are foreign tourists.

The strike at the Eiffel Tower is part of wider industrial action called by four unions to protest against government cuts.

A separate strike at Radio France has stretched into its fourth week, prompting Prime Minister Manuel Valls to criticise an "intolerable, unbearable situation."

In addition, air traffic controllers are on a two-day strike over their working conditions, forcing airlines to cancel around half their scheduled flights on Thursday.