Thursday, March 05, 2009

Guadeloupe News Bulletin: General Strike Suspended While Unrest Spreads to La Reunion

Strike ends after 44 days in Guadeloupe

CLAYTON FLORENT, Guadeloupe Correspondent

After 44 days of general mobilization, a draft agreement of 165 points was signed Wednesday evening at the Port authority building in Pointe-a- Pitre between the State’s representative, Prefect Nicolas Desforges, the Regional and General Councils, and the Collectivity of Unions on strike - LKP.

Prefect Desforges said, “Guadeloupe must make up for its lost time and make re-doubled efforts.”

President of the General Council Jacques Gillot, added, “The road was long, but we are finally here.”

“Now, it is necessary to be able to make this agreement survive. We will keep to our commitments. We are ready for that,” Gillot stated.

His counterpart of the Regional Council, Victorin Lurel described this as a historical moment.

According to Spokesperson for the Unions, Elie Domota, they will continue to militate for improvement of living condition for Guadeloupe, Marie Galante, Desirade, and The Saints. LKP is also dedicated to getting the organizations which did not sign the Jacques Bino (deceased trade unionist) agreement to do so.

The agreement includes, the raise in salaries by 200 euros to workers earning minimun wage, the reduction of some 100 most used items on supermarket shelves, a reduction in the price of petrol, water and electricity, among others.

Many believe that the strike which began on January 20 has an historical semblance. That day was when the first black President of the United States, Barack Obama was sworn into office. The strike lasted 44 days. Obama is also the 44th US President. This strike will also go down in history as one of the longest in France.

Today marks one month of ongoing industrial action in Martinique. According to reports, negotiations to end the strike are moving slow.

Violence Spreads In French Territories

Thursday March 5th, 2009/15h58

SAINT-DENIS, Reunion (AFP)--Police fired tear gas Thursday to disperse stone-throwing youths on the French island of Reunion as protests over the cost of living spread from the Caribbean to the Indian Ocean.

Hooded youths set up a roadblock near Reunion's capital, Saint-Denis, and a separate demonstration in the city forced a supermarket to close when protestors tried to burst in.

Several thousand people marched in Saint-Denis and the town of Saint-Pierre to voice complaints similar to those of their fellow French citizens in the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

They say they face higher prices, higher unemployment and lower salaries than counterparts in France.

Thursday's incidents on Reunion, an island of around 800,000 people that lies to the east of Madagascar, came as a 44-day general strike ended in Guadeloupe with a promise of pay rises.

The six-week struggle, which saw one activist shot dead by protesters and hundreds of extra police deployed from France, ended with a 165-point deal on measures to improve living standards on the island.

A general strike on nearby Martinique entered its second month on Thursday. Trade unions in Reunion have called for a strike to start on their island next Tuesday.

Thursday March 5th, 2009 / 15h58

Guadeloupe Businesses Reopen as Unrest Spreads to Reunion

By Eric Sabo

March 5 (Bloomberg) -- Guadeloupe businesses reopened today after unions reached agreement with the French government for higher pay and ended a 44-day strike that paralyzed the Caribbean island.

Workers will receive a 200-euro ($250) wage increase and the prices of gasoline, water and banking services will be reduced as part of the accords signed late yesterday.

“We have been engaged in combat,” said United Workers Center member Alain Plaiser in a statement posted today on the General Union of Guadeloupe Workers Web site. “We put ourselves, in a determined manner, in the service of our people.”

The strike left one person dead, while the unrest has since spread to Martinique and Reunion, two other French territories. Police fired tear gas today at protesters who are demanding higher wages in Reunion, in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar, Agence France-Press reported.

Guadeloupe, with a population of about 453,000, depends on tourism for its economy. Among the businesses forced to close was the La Carvelle Club Med, a 317-room resort that will reopen April 3 after being shut for almost two months, said company spokeswoman Kate Moeller.

“This is high season, but typically August is the most busy, since many French traditionally take their vacation during that month,” Moeller said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Sabo in Panama City at

Marchers protest costs on another French island

SAINT-DENIS, Reunion (AP) — Protests spread Thursday from two French possessions in the Caribbean to the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where about 15,000 people demonstrated in different cities against high prices.

The protests on Reunion present the French government with a new challenge, coming just as union leaders on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe agreed to suspend a 44-day-old general strike. Protests on the nearby island of Martinique also are ebbing.

French possessions in the Pacific have not seen protests, but they face the same kind of problems as in the French Antilles islands in the Caribbean: high prices, unemployment, poverty and low salaries.

"Our objective has largely been fulfilled," said Jean-Hugues Ratenon, president of a Reunion umbrella group of some three dozen organizations seeking improvements in living standards. "Reunion is united, unified and together."

The demonstrators presented French authorities with a list of 62 demands that will be negotiated with the government and representatives in the coming days. High on the list of demands is an increase of $250 (euro200) a month for low-paid workers and a 20 percent cut in the price of basic necessities, many of which are imported from France.

"We will lean on the victory in the Antilles to satisfy the biggest number of our grievances," said Ivan Hoareau, a union leader. "If we continue here, it is to help our buddies in the Antilles."

Union leaders in Reunion have called for a strike March 10 if their demands are not met.

In Guadeloupe, union leaders agreed late Wednesday to suspend the strike because most of their demands were being met. The strike there shut down the island, closed schools and caused major economic losses as thousands of tourists canceled their vacations.

On Martinique, a nearly monthlong strike appeared to be losing steam as well, but was yet to be resolved.

Resentment by Afro-Caribbeans, many of whom are descendants of slaves, over the fact that the vast majority of wealth and land is in the hands of the descendants of French colonists is a big factor in much of the unrest.

Deal reached to end strike on France's Guadeloupe

Thursday, March 5, 2009

POINTE-A-PITRE, France--Unions and authorities signed a deal overnight to end a six-week general strike over wages and prices that had paralysed the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.

The deal met protesters' demands for a 200 euro (177 pound) increase in the lowest monthly salaries and pegged back the price of dozens of shop items to reduce the cost of living on the island, which is higher than in mainland France.

"It is indeed a relief," France's minister for overseas territories, Yves Jego, told France Info radio.

The government's slow response to the crisis left it looking flat-footed and President Nicolas Sarkozy had feared that the sometimes violent protests would spread to the mainland.

Jego said the agreement would apply to France's other overseas departments -- a bid to quell similar disputes that are continuing on the nearby Caribbean island of Martinique and the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

"It is a first step," Guadeloupe protest leader Elie Domota told reporters, adding: "In the coming months and weeks there will be many other struggles on training, employment ... We remain mobilised."

The strike exposed underlying tensions between workers on the island and a wealthy white minority, many of whom descended from slave-era colonists. Sarkozy has called for a review of how France's overseas territories are run.

(Reporting by Colette Borda; additional reporting by Jean-Baptiste Vey in Paris; writing by Francois Murphy; editing by Crispian Balmer)

Martinique strike loses steam, businesses reopen

Associated Press
2009-03-05 01:33 AM

The nearly monthlong strike on the French Caribbean island of Martinique appears to be losing steam.

An increasing number of stores are reopening, as have the island's nearly 100 gas stations, though most schools remain closed.

Business owners and union leaders were meeting Wednesday to work out details of agreements to increase wages and lower prices. Negotiations over education and farming issues are still ongoing.

Talks also continue on the sister island of Guadeloupe, where the strike has lasted 44 days.

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