Monday, March 09, 2009

Guadeloupe News Update: Statements on the General Strike

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1) Update: First Victory!: Agreement Signed, General Strike Ends after 44 Days! -- by ILC U.S. Coordinators Eduardo Rosario and Alan Benjamin (based on Communiqué from ATPC)

2) Final Week of Negotiations: An Account of the Last Week of the Struggle -- by Alan Benjamin (based on reports from Robert Fabert, editor of Travayé è Peyzan

3) Background Articles on the General Strike from Issue No. 325 (February 25, 2009) of the ILC International Newsletter

1) Update: First Victory!: Agreement Signed, General Strike Ends after 44 Days!

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We received this morning a communiqué from the Guadeloupe-based Caribbean Workers and Peoples Alliance (ATPC) informing us that an agreement was signed Wednesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. between the LKP Strike Collective of 49 trade unions and organizations, the local governments, the employers' groups, and the French State. The agreement grants the strikers their top 20 immediate demands and allows for continued negotiations, with a tentative agreement reached on many points, on the remaining 126 mid-term and long-term demands.

The general strike was formally ended by vote of the LKP Strike Collective, with the unions and community organizations declaring this a "First Victory." The communiqué of the ATPC ends with the following words: "This was a FIRST VICTORY -- a victory obtained the workers and an entire mobilized people, and by the international solidarity with this courageous struggle."

The Jacques Bino Agreement -- named after the trade union leader who was killed on the barricades the night of February 16 -- that was signed on March 4 covers the following categories: wages/purchasing power, housing, transportation, education, employment, public services, trade union rights, environmental protections and culture.

Twenty of the articles, the List of Immediate Demands of the LKP Strike Collective, were fully met by the French authorities and employers' associations and were signed and codified into the agreement. Here are some of the provisions of the March 4 agreement:

On Wages: The agreement grants a 200 euro monthly increase to workers making the minimum wage, or SMIC, and up to 1.4 times the minimum wage (that is, between 1321 euros and 1849 euros). All workers making between 1.5 and 1.6 times the minimum wage (between 1849 euros and 2113 euros) get a 6% pay increase. Workers making 1.7 times the minimum wage or more (more than 2113 euros) get a 3% wage increase.

On Price Cuts: Lowering by 5% to 10% of costs for 100 basic staples and commodities, and for utilities (water, oil, gas, electricity, etc.) The cost of meals in the student cafeterias is cut by 20%, with a commitment to increase by 50% the produce of local farmers in all the meals provided by the student cafeterias. Family canteens will receive subsidies for their meal plans. Lowering of public transportation costs by 20%. Agreement by the State to fund 40,000 round-trip Paris-Point-a-Pitre airline tickets at 340 euros for low-income families, for the purpose of family reunification. Cuts in banking fees. Compensation of 40,000 euros for all small transportation owners in the aftermath of the reorganization of the urban and inter-city transportation plan.

On Housing: Moratorium on all foreclosures, evictions of renters and utility cutoffs. A Special Fund of 3 million euros is created to provide subsidized housing for 17,000 senior citizens and 7,000 handicapped persons. Freeze on all rents, accompanied by a tax cut of 9% for all renters. End of speculation in land for hotels and resorts, particularly non Guadeloupan chains and banking interests, with financial assistance to local businesses involved in tourist industry.

On Employment: Emergency Recovery Plan to provide jobs for 8,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 26, with the creation of a "Bill of Rights for Employment for all Working People in Guadeloupe." Creation of an agency to provide employment for job seekers, with the creation of jobs to meet the employment needs. All students on waiting lists for education at all levels will be admitted into a school.

On Agriculture and Fishing: Protections and subsidies for the agricultural producers, and protection of 64,000 hectares of agricultural lands. Stabilization of prices for fishing industry. State aid for fishing hatcheries and for modernization of fishing fleet and processing.

On Trade Union Rights: Improvement in State recognition of union prerogatives and rights, with fuller respect for, and enforcement of, collective-bargaining agreements and labor legislation. Designation of mediators to resolve specific conflicts that have arisen at RFO, Air France, International Airport, etc.

On the Environment: Creation of 50,000 hectare nature preserve.

On Culture: Commitment by the State to establish Creolle as a language for all public buildings and services, on the par with French.

The workers and people of Guadeloupe were ecstatic over this victory. People took to the streets spontaneously to celebrate.

Reactions in the mainstream French press, understandably, were less than sympathetic to the strikers. Writing in Les Echos on March 5, journalist Jean-Francis Pécresse laments that the French government gave in to the "mob pressure of the LKP Strike Collective, signing an agreement whose preamble proposes nothing less than the creation of a 'New Order in opposition to the Model of the Plantation Economy.' What value should we place on agreement signed under pressure from the LKP militia, an agreement imposed by intimidation?"

The scorn and racism of the colonialist power and of the white ruling class elite on the island, the Beké, comes through loud and clear in this article. How dare Pécresse use the term "mob" to describe a valiant, organized, peaceful (despite all the provocations by a 5,000 contingent of French Riot Police, the CRS) and disciplined people -- the overwhelming majority of whom are Black -- who were able to withstand the hardships of 44 days of a general strike, with the creation of soup kitchens, agricultural procurement committees, self-defense committees, picket lines, cultural committees, and barricades.

The impact of this victory will be felt around the world. There can be no doubt about this. We will continue to inform our readers and supporters of the repercussions of this powerful movement.

As the declaration of the ATPC notes, one of the keys to victory was the international solidarity expressed day after day with the general strike in Guadeloupe. All who signed our Open Letters, organized delegations to the French Embassy and Consulates, organized forums, broadcast news on their shows, publicized this movement in their press and postings, and/or sent statements to the strikers in Guadeloupe contributed to this victory.

Thanks to all for your support.

In solidarity,
Eduardo Rosario and Alan Benjamin
For the ILC


2) The Final Week of Negotiations

A tentative agreement was reached In the wee hours of Friday morning, February 27. After the tentative agreement was announced, there was great joy and celebration in the streets of Guadeloupe. But over the weekend, the French authorities, through the French-appointed Prefect and the main employers' association, the MEDEF, went to the media to announce that an agreement had been reached and that everyone should go back to work on Monday.

This outraged the LKP Strike Collective and the workers and people of Guadeloupe. No agreement had been signed. And it was up to the Black majority on the island, organized in their own LKP Strike Collective, the only recognized leadership of the mass movement, to announce whether the strike was to end or whether it was to continue. It was not up to the Beké, the white ruling elite on the island, and its colonial paymasters in France to speak on behalf of the strikers -- especially when they had not signed an agreement.

The people felt that the government and the employers were trying to pull a fast one; that is, end the strike without signing a binding agreement. And there was additional reason for resentment and distrust: Two weeks earlier, the French Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories, Yves Jégo, had announced during his trip to Guadeloupe, where he had joined the negotiating team, that he supported the LKP Strike Collective's demand for a 200 euro increase in the monthly minimum wage. But no sooner had Jégo made this declaration than he was disavowed by French Prime Minster Francois Fillon and ordered back to Paris. This dashed the people's hope that the strike would come to an end, with a victory for the workers.

On Monday, March 2, the LKP Strike Collective disclosed the tentative agreement: All the main demands of the strikers had been won. Negotiations were to resume late Monday morning with the Prefect, the MEDEF, and the Small Business Employers' Association to finalize and sign the agreement.

But there was now a hitch: The MEDEF employers' association now reneged on the part of the agreement involving the 200 euro increase in the minimum wage. According to the agreement, the French government would pay 100 euros per worker (out of the 200 euro increase) for a period of three years by releasing the employers from paying into pension and healthcare funds for the workforce -- but after three years, that extra charge would have to be paid once again by the employers organized in the MEDEF. Now the MEDEF was demanding that the French government assume that 100 euro charge indefinitely.

This sent things back to Paris. From the morning of Monday, March 2 to the evening of Wednesday, March 5, heated and angry debates, negotiations and mass mobilizations organized by the LKP Strike Collective were the order the day in Guadeloupe.

Ultimately the workers and people of Guadeloupe prevailed. At 8 p.m. on March 4, an agreement was signed: A First Victory -- a huge victory -- had been won!

-- Alan Benjamin

(reprinted from Issue No. 325, February 25, 2009)

The ILC distributes the LKP's call for international solidarity

Emergency Call

A Collective Fighting Against Exploitation

Workers, young people, pensioners, fighters for a more just Guadeloupe.

For the past five weeks tens of thousands of Guadeloupeans have been on the streets to denounce the exploitation they suffer as a result of the colonial system that still exists in Guadeloupe, the powers granted to the status quo, and submission of political representation.

It was necessary to say No!

- No, to unemployment afflicting more than 30% of the population, or 50,000 men and women.
- No to job insecurity, poverty that affects over 60,000 homes.
- Not to the exclusion, discrimination in hiring that prohibits young people, the main component of the population (over 40% of the population is under 25 years) any life plans.
- No to the destruction of public education, which casts nearly 1,000 young people each year into the streets with no qualifications.
- No to economic blackmail organized by importers and distributors by dealers with the political support and financial assistance from the French State, which pushes up the price of utilities (electricity, fuel, transportation, gas, rent) and of goods so that that they are now inaccessible to families.
- No to the poisoning of agricultural land, land speculation and real estate, to the disappearance of local production, which allows the importation of over 80% of what is consumed locally.
- Not to taxation, the taxation of community and state, and the exorbitant profits of merchants and financial institutions.
- No to the hoarding of the wealth ...
- Not to blackmail, layoffs, and anti-union repression which would require more than 60,000 employees to accept 1000 euros in net monthly salary under the pretext of the crisis, of realism, and love for Guadeloupe.
- No to the destruction of our ecological heritage, no to environmental crimes.

Since December 16, LIYANNNAJ KONTE PWOFITASYON, a true federation of 49 organizations of various unions, associations, political, cultural, and consumers organizations, decided to manifest the discontent and demands of the people and raise them to those in power.

LIYANNNAJ KONTE PWOFITASYON (LKP) has given voice to the voiceless and given expression to all voices of the people.

Today, despite tens of thousands of proud, dignified protestors in the streets, despite hours and hours of negotiations, after the assassination of the militant trade unionist and CGTG activist of Akiyo, Jacques BINO, the French government and the Guadeloupe bosses are still refusing to meet the just demands and aspirations of the people. President Nicholas SARKOZY prefers to drown our demands in a magic formula "United assembly; status evolution." This is not the demand of the LKP.

To put an end to the conflict, they do suggest general measures (RSA, a bonus of 1500 euros per year exempt from taxes, ...), but they reject reforming their system. Clearly, the income of active solidarity (RSA) is a family allowance paid by the FCA, intended for families with low incomes, the RSA is the little brother of the RMI and the single parent allowance (API).

The RSA is not a salary but a benefit based on family status and not on the remuneration of work. For example for a single qualification and the same work, two employees with different family situations receive a different salary.

The famous bonus of 1500 Euros is a premium set by the law of December 3, 2008, intended to give employees the illusion of participation in the companies. This is not a wage increase.

Large employers and békés proposed at the last negotiating session, on February 20, 2009, a premium of between 50 and 70 euros. They expect that the State will fully fund the demand for a 200 euro wage raise, as has always been the case, through granting subsidies and tax exemptions of all kinds.

This is unacceptable, unacceptable!

Yet they all claim to have lost since the beginning of the strike hundreds of millions of euros. They have not changed since 1967, and they continue to say that the Negro ké ké yo fen woupran travay.

LKP and workers continue to demand in Guadeloupe a 200 euro net wage increase in the monthly minimum wage for private sector employees, the application of the guarantee of individual purchasing power and the compensation scheme for employees of the three public functions.

Contrary to the allegations suggesting that certain points have been granted, the LKP and the people of Guadeloupe demand more than ever, the continuation of negotiations and the satisfaction of all other items of immediate demands (lower prices - Implementation a moratorium of 4 years for the reform of teacher recruitment - Emergency Plan for Training and Youth Employment - Regulations of the carriers, fishermen and farmers, small Credit Associations - Taking account in the media and public building the language and culture of our country - Final resolution of ongoing conflicts - Abandonment of prosecutions related to the ongoing conflict ...).

The LKP and the people of Guadeloupe continue to demand the transformation of social relations, respect for fundamental freedoms, the right to live and work in dignity in the country, the end of exploitation.

The LKP makes this international call to workers' organizations, progressive organizations, anticapitalist and anti-colonial organizations in France and the last colonies of France to continue and strengthen their support and mobilizations.

The general strike CONTINUES!

Workers and people of Guadeloupe, in memory and respect for Jacques BINO, let us reinforce and amplify the mobilization and solidarity in all enterprises in all sectors in the streets, neighborhoods, and families!

Workers and people of Guadeloupe: Continue the fight to expose and oppose all repression: both that conducted by the police and the courts against our youth and that conducted by the employers who refuse to pay wages for strikers and supporters!

NOU Peke Lage!
All Out to Support our Negotiations!
Monday 23 February 2009 at 11 h00 at the Port Authority.
Meet at 08H00 Douvan the bik, Lapwent.
L.K.P Lapwent on 21.02.09

Strike Journal

The situation in Guadeloupe

In issue 323 of the ILC International Newsletter we reproduced an article from the newsletter Travaye e Peyizan, edited by Mouvmant Travaye é Peyizan, a Guadeloupean organization linked to the ILC. The following correspondence was send to us since this last publication.

* Tuesday February 10, 2009

Now the strike has been renewed after a press conference of the LKP Collective reaffirmed its platform and the 200 euro demand in particular.

More than 5,000 people traveled for more than 4 hours from the industrial area of Jarry ("the economic lung of Guadeloupe") in the late morning in response to the call of the Strike Collective.

* Wednesday February 11 , 2009

The contacts were renewed with the Secretary of State, who arrived the day before, at his request. After meeting with elected officials (Presidents of the General and Regional Councils) and the employer separately in the early morning, it was the turn of the Collective at 11:15. After apologizing for her hasty and discourteous departure and the arrest of members of the Collective, a delegation composed of 6 general secretaries of trade unions began discussions with the 2 mediators of the General Directorate of Labor to prepare the conditions for discussing the raise of the minimum wage by 200 euros.

These discussions should be continued tomorrow morning. A meeting is also scheduled during the day between the Collective and elected politicians at the request of the latter.

The negotiation could resume in the afternoon or on Friday February 13 under the mediation of the work directors.

Yves Jégo [French Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories] visited Martinique on Thursday morning; he left for France to attend a council of ministers on Friday.

At 6 pm a thousand small businesses met the Collective at its request. Some have said that they could pay the ¤ 200 immediately, others demanded a deal to be worked out. They affirmed their commitment to prohibit Medef [the large employers' association] in Guadeloupe from speaking on their behalf and now they will participate in the negotiations.

A meeting is scheduled Thursday night at 19 h30 at the Palais de la Mutualité.

* Thursday February 12, 2009

The Strike Collective ceased to meet with the so-called mediators who spend their time putting pressure on the delegation and calling on them to scale back their demands, and the Collective reiterated its willingness to resume negotiations on the basis of the pre-agreement of Sunday, February 8.

A meeting between the Collective and the presidents of the General Councils was held in the afternoon at the request of the latter. This did nothing. The evening rally took place with more than 5,000 people.

* Friday February 13, 2009

Strike Collective caravans with hundreds of Guadeloupeans traveled Guadeloupe distributing a leaflet with the recent speeches in all municipalities. It was a real success. An electronic message "of a certain silent majority" called for a demonstration in the Jarry industrial area "to give voice to the overwhelming majority" on February 14 at 9 am. At the last moment it was canceled or postponed. Was it a provocation mounted to suppress the movement?

* Saturday February 14 , 2009

Events in the Mouse Commune were organized by the Committee Fevry LKP 52 and to pay tribute to 5 people of the commune (workers and strikers) who were murdered on February 14, 1952 by mobile guards sent by the colonial power after a strike by industrial workers and the agricultural plant of Gardel. About 80,000 people participated.

The cultural groups of the Collective organized for the public, following the demonstration, choreography to the sound of KA, at a high volume commensurate with the movement.

Christiane Taubira, arrived yesterday evening in Guadeloupe for 3 days to support the Collective and took the floor and was highly acclaimed.

A trade union official, in his speech, emphasized the healthy side of the movement "for a month no accidents, no aggression," he said ...

A delegation of the Socialist Party (PS) is now in Guadeloupe. Is there a connection with the declarations of the presidents of CG and CR? They offer on the negotiation on wages: 100 ¤ (50 for each community); monthly premium for 3 months (remember they had already proposed a premium of 300 ¤ including 150 for each) while the "social partners" reach an agreement on wages. They called on the collective to ease the strike by allowing the opening of schools in particular. They also said that there should be "the foundation of the people of Guadeloupe" in order to move towards a statutory evolution of Guadeloupe.

The UGTG informed the group of the their Appeal in May to hold a conference of the last colonies of France.

* Sunday February 15, 2009

There was a meeting a delegation of the Collective with the delegation of the French Socialist Party including former Secretary of State for the Colonies, Christian Paul.

Meeting of all the Collective with Christiane Taubira.

We learned yesterday about the arrival of 300 additional mobile guards.

These forces of repression are increasingly provocative, for example: in the airports they follow around all the striking workers. They control all vehicles coming to the airport, including those with the red ribbon symbol of sympathy with the movement.

At any time repression may fall on the movement since the French government shows no sign of willingness to resume negotiations.

Despite the tireless struggle of the collective Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon (LKP), the employers and the French state are letting the situation deteriorate.

Instead of actually facilitating the negotiations, the representatives of the French state shirked their responsibilities (first it was the departure of the Prefect from the bargaining table on January 28; then there was the flight of the Secretary of State for Overseas Departments on February 8; followed by the denial of commitments by the French State) while they brought to Guadeloupe an additional 2,000 mobile gendarmes. What happened was predictable.

Workers and young people do not accept violence against trade unionists and the population by the forces of repression. On the night of February 17 a CGTG trade unionist was killed by bullets; we do not yet know the exact circumstances behind the killing, but the crocodile tears are raining down.

The Caribbean Workers and Peoples Alliance, ATPC, denounced the role of employers and the State that aim to weaken the movement and then create the situation we see today. The ATPC has appealed to organizations in the Caribbean to condemn this repression and to demand the immediate reopening of negotiations and the satisfaction of all the demands.

[The following announcement of the Association of Workers and Peoples of Guadeloupe, ATPC, summarizes what happened from February 16 to 18, 2009.]

* Pointe à Pitre on February 18, 2009

Arrival of a delegation from the International Liaison Committee on February 18 in the afternoon.

* February 18-19 , 2009.

It took a Guadelupean to be killed for the Prime Minister and President of France to speak.

* February 23 , 2009

Appeal from the UGTG to the OS of France

"At the call of 49 organizations, including all trade unions in Guadeloupe, including the UGTG, a general strike began on January 20, 2009 to demand from employers and the state: (....)

On February 8, after 18 hours of negotiations, a pre-agreement on wages was established between the parties under the mediation of the Secretary of State for Overseas and services of the Directorate of Labor. This pre-agreement was to provide 108 million euros from the State to the companies. The Secretary of State then fell back on his old position, undermining the agreement, and obliging the general strike movement to continue.

After the death of a trade unionist on the night of February 17-18, the French Prime Minister and President say they want to calm "the crisis -- a social crisis", but do they offer to increase wages? Instead they offer a premium exempt from social security contributions based on the RSA active solidarity revenue, including for employees with a 1.4 minimum wage.

This is nothing but a handout "to help the poor" offered to workers in the guise of wage increases.

Furthermore, this provision, like those before (RMI, API) because of the conditions of its application and because of the adverse effects it will generate, could dismantle even more the Guadeloupean family.

The bosses are not better: This so-called proposal allows them to make proposals to increase minimum wages by 70 ¤ or 50 ¤. It is contempt for workers in Guadeloupe, who are not asking for charity, but who demand a more exact payment for their work. We cannot accept this.

We will resume talks with the bosses in the presence of the State representative with a desire to negotiate for the ¤ 200 as it is possible if the other parties are motivated by the same desire.

We turn to you so that you can tell the workers and the public the reality of our demands, as opposed to government propaganda and media outlets who say those involved in the general strike and especially trade unions are political extremists, promoting racial anger and violence.

Workers of Guadeloupe and their organizations for 5 weeks have exercised the utmost responsibility.

* February 23-24, 2009

Negotiations resumed at 11.30 am yesterday in the presence of organizations, unions and the state representative, the Prefect of Mediators with the Ministry of Labor and the Labor Department of Guadeloupe.

Worker representatives made a proposal requesting from the State the abolition of the CSG and CRDS, which are between 100 to 120 ¤. Faced with the refusal of employers, Medef, and the Prefect, Guadeloupean bosses (UCEG, UPA, a group of carriers, ...) who are now the majority have made the following proposal to grant ¤ 200 immediately:

- 50 ¤ from their bodies;
- 50 ¤ to be paid as a result of bank loans guaranteed by the Communities (the Presidents of the CR and CG, have stalled after a time, said OK, this corresponds to 40 million ¤).
- ¤ 100 recovered by suspending the CSG and the CRDS for 3 years, the time to return to normal operation based on the award of contracts, .... (This is part of the platform of demands LKP).

Note that this proposal was endorsed by trade unions and GCPME.

Medef offers 50 ¤, 70 ¤, 90 ¤ (excluding 90 ¤ for the following sectors: hospitality, construction, cleaning, security, agriculture sectors covered by collective agreements or agreements branches) . We were able to isolate Medef who is alone with fewer than 500 companies employing 3 to 4,000 workers, out of the 49,000 employees involved.

We await the response of the Prefect at the resumption of negotiations that must take place at 11am this morning.

The Movement continues!

Faced with this situation we call for the strengthening of solidarity.

Guadeloupe, February 24, 2009, 19:30.

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