Friday, February 27, 2009

Guadeloupe Strike Continues Despite Deal on Salary Increases

Guadeloupe strike on despite deal

Unions in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have signed a deal to raise workers' salaries, but have not ended a five-week-long general strike.

The agreement will see the wages of the lowest-paid workers supplemented with a 200-euro ($254; £178) monthly payment.

But union leaders said the strike would continue until France's government had addressed spiralling prices, which are far higher than on the French mainland.

The strike has crippled the island and occasionally erupted into violence.

Last week, union leader Jacques Bino was shot dead by rioting youths at a barricade in Guadeloupe's largest city, Pointe-a-Pitre.

A similar strike has taken hold on nearby Martinique, where the situation has become calmer after two consecutive nights of riots.

Both Guadeloupe and Martinique are full overseas departments of France, but prices on the islands are generally higher while wages are lower than on the mainland, and unemployment stands at 20%.

Hundreds of police and gendarmes have been deployed from France to support local security forces and help restore order.


Unions and employer groups on Guadeloupe signed an agreement on Thursday to pay a 200-euro monthly supplement to those workers earning less than 1,400 euros ($1,770; £1,250) a month.

Other workers will see a wage increase of about 6%, though this will be negotiated separately by each sector, Henry Berthelot, secretary-general of the CFDT union, told the Reuters news agency.

The French state will contribute half of the wage increase from 2009 to 2011.

However, after the agreement, union leaders quickly turned their attention to other demands, such as the lowering of food and energy prices.

"We have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the prefect (local administrator) to continue the negotiations," the leader of the LKP union, Elie Domota, told the Associated Press.

Asked if the general strike would now end, he said: "No."

On Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that "not everything has been resolved, but finally progress is being made".

"I'll go to the French West Indies in a few weeks' time to scrupulously keep all the commitments I have made," he told the AFP news agency.

"When you approach things calmly, when you honestly try to find the right solutions, when the issues are dealt with seriously, then that calms the situation down, of course," he added.

The president also said that "the same causes of injustice, of feelings of injustice, exist in Martinique as they existed in Guadeloupe".

"So we need to find ways and means of restoring dialogue, reducing tensions, and above all providing concrete answers to the problems our compatriots in the West Indies are experiencing," he said.

"It is absolutely not right for prices to be much higher in the West Indies than in metropolitan France," he added.

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Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/27 15:04:04 GMT

Guadeloupe unions win raises but strike goes on


POINTE-A-PITRE, Guadeloupe (AP) — Unions in Guadeloupe scored a victory in getting a deal to raise some workers' salaries, but said Friday they will not end a general strike now concluding its sixth week on the French Caribbean island.

Leaders of the strike-organizing Collective Against Exploitation, or LKP, paused for handshakes and photos with small business owners after signing the deal just before midnight Thursday. The agreement raises some workers' salaires by $250 (euro200) a month.

The union leaders quickly turned their attention to unsettled issues of raises for thousands more workers and lowering food and energy prices many times higher than those on the French mainland.

"We have a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the prefect to continue the negotiations," LKP leader Elie Domota told The Associated Press after getting up from the signing table. Asked if the strike would now end, he said simply, "No."

The strike has shuttered stores across the island, chased away tourists and occasionally erupted into clashes between protesters and police. The deal was officially named the "Jacques Bino Accord" in honor of slain a union member killed leaving a strike meeting Feb. 17.

Starting March 1 those employers will provide up to half the salary increase for workers making up to $2,353 (euro1,849) a month, with the rest paid for by the French and local government. Workers making up to $2,690 (euro2,113) will receive at least a 6 percent raise.

But prospects for further salary talks were set back earlier Thursday when the French Caribbean department's large business owners refused to return to the negotiating table, accusing the unions of creating a "climate of intimidation and violence."

"Each day that passes, more and more companies face great difficulty, taking measures of unemployment, redundancy or are close to bankruptcy," the employers said, citing roadblocks and shop closures and accusing the LKP of physically intimidating business owners.

Around the same time, about 500 LKP supporters descended on a high-end Carrefour grocery store owned by a key business leader and kept open using nonunion workers during the strike.

The protesters chased off shoppers and chanted, "Employers are thieves, exploitation has ended!" as they knocked over shopping carts and barricaded the parking lot. French riot police were on hand but did not intervene.

Protests have also spread to the neighboring French Caribbean island of Martinique over high prices, low pay and alleged neglect by officials in Paris. Strikers have looted stores, burned cars and hurled beer bottles at police who responded with tear gas.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called Thursday for calm in Martinique and for all parties in Guadeloupe to quickly conclude an accord.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I think that the strike is completely warranted, I would strike as well. You should check out the average salary of some of these positions.