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France

Day Six: Talks stall over the minimum wage

Latest update : 2009-02-24

As negotiations stall, strike-hit businesses continue to suffer. But FRANCE 24's Eve Irvine spoke to one man who suspects that some business owners might be using the strike to circumvent strict French employment laws and lay off workers.

Monday, Feb. 23rd
 
As we post these reports, from our window the chant “La Gwadloup sé tan nou, la Gwadeloup a pa ta yo” ("Guadeloupe is ours, Guadeloupe is not theirs") is being yelled by scores of people to show that they still support the strike. Outside the building where the negotiations are taking place, two young kids beat on drums; the crowd is gathered in a circle and people take turns entering the middle of it to dance. The talks restarted sometime after 10 a.m. this morning.

It is now 7:30 p.m. and the strike supporters, who have been here since morning, are still full of energy and voice. The sounds are loud and strong and give one the impression that the fight to get their demands met will continue until they are satisfied. So far today there has been little development in the talks, which are still stalling on the issue of raising the minimum wage by €200 a month.
 

For now, public support for the movement appears strong but lots of businessmen also seem afraid of the LKP movement (the group of unions leading the strike). Some shops were open on Monday morning but as the LKP walked down main street toward the negotiation site, shutters closed up at alarming speed, with people dashing inside and out. To keep your shop open during the strike is viewed as being against the movement, of being a traitor to the cause and, to a degree, to the island itself.

 

In Jarry, the industrial heart of Guadeloupe, some warehouses are open. The people working there tell us they are taking a risk. They are afraid that if LKP supporters see them open they will threaten them or even come back at night to torch the building.

 

Businesses, naturally, are suffering after over four weeks of strikes, particularly small enterprises. A restaurateur tells us that he knows his employees are the people who make or break his restaurant business, but at the same time he cannot afford the extra expense he would incur by increasing salaries by the amounts demanded. He suspects big businesses are trying to stall the talks and prolong the strike. He says some of them may have staff they want to fire, but because of strict French employment laws this is not easily done. If the strike goes on long enough they will be able to claim that they had no choice but to let people go – this is considered an acceptable reason, in French legal terms, to cut staff.

 

For now, at least, the talks are not showing any signs of progress.

 

 

Date created : 2009-02-23

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