Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Martinique News Bulletin: Rebellion Erupts As Negotiations Over General Strike Demands Stall

Stores looted, cars burnt on island of Martinique

PARIS (AP): Vandals burnt cars and looted stores in Martinique overnight, police said on Wednesday, after nearly three weeks of labor protests on the French Caribbean island.

Some 20 people were detained after the destruction in Fort-de-France, the island's chief city, according to the police headquarters on Martinique. Police did not give a number of stores or cars damaged, but the looting and burning did not appear to be widespread.

Martinique has not seen the same degree of violence that recently hit the nearby French island of Guadeloupe. Weeks of strikes on Guadeloupe over wages and high living costs degenerated into rioting last week in which one labor activist died.

Guadeloupe's strikes and labor protests spread to Martinique, where talks were to resume Thursday between employers and labor unions on ending a 20-day strike that has halted businesses on the island.

Protesters walked out of the talks on Monday after business owners did not offer a concrete counterproposal to demands for a monthly pay increase of euro354 euros ($452), strike organizer Michael Monrose said.

On Guadeloupe, talks aimed at ending the paralyzing 36-day-old general strike were to resume on Wednesday.

Government representatives left the bargaining table Monday night, saying they were not prepared to agree to a euro200 ($250) monthly raise for those making euro900 ($1,130) a month. They have since been awaiting new instructions from Paris.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy last week announced a euro580 million ($730 million) financial package to help development in France's overseas regions, where prices are often much higher than on the mainland but salaries are not.

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