Historic strike at French luxury house Cartier

PARIS - French jewellery house Cartier, founded in 1847, faced the first strike at its flagship Paris store on Friday with angry workers demanding a hefty pay rise.

About 70 employees gathered outside the outlet in central Paris near the main opera house shouting "Workers badly paid!"

The gem polishers, who bussed in from the eastern city of Reims where the Cartier workshop is located, said their protest was a watershed.

"It's historic, it's the first time that there has been a strike in the House of Cartier," said a striker, adding that she earned only 1,300 euros (US$1,700) a month after 13 years at the famed jeweller and luxury watch maker.

The strikers, who launched their protest three days ago, are demanding a pay rise of 200 euros a month, but management has only offered a raise of 75 euros.

"We are paid the minimum wage while things for them are going very well. Their last reported turnover was 12.7 billion euros," said Flavien Lacrampe from the powerful CGT union.

Cartier is now owned by Swiss luxury goods holding company Richemont, founded by South African tycoon Johann Rupert.

In a statement, the firm said it was greatly disappointed that negotiations had failed and voiced its "incomprehension."