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Mood wary as strike talks continue

Video by Louis MASSIE

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-02-25

In a bid to end a five-week strike that has crippled the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, government, union and business leaders have resumed negotiations. But the mood is pessimistic as officials seek to bridge an impasse.

Talks continued on Tuesday in the strike-hit French overseas territory of Guadeloupe between representatives from the government, unions and employers as union leaders held firm to demands for a 200-euro increase in the wage for low-income workers. 


Government sources said leaders were seeking to come up with more concrete proposals before resuming negotiations on Wednesday.


Representatives of the Collective Against Exploitation, an umbrella union known by its French acronym, the LKP, are meeting with employers and representatives of the French state in Pointe-à-Pitre, the largest city on the Caribbean island.


Hundreds of demonstrators accompanied the union representatives as they made their way to the first meetings on Monday, chanting slogans such as “Guadeloupe belongs to us, it’s not theirs”, and “We’re here to negotiate”.


Olivier Besancenot, spokesman for the newly created radical French political party NPA, accompanied the marchers. He is visiting the island to “learn” from the social protests.


At the negotiating table were local political representatives, LKP spokesman Elie Domota, and two mediators sent over by the French government.


The union’s principle demand since the strikes began on Jan. 20 has been the 200-euro after-tax pay rise for low-income earners, and it is regarding this demand that talks seem to have reached an impasse.


Negotiations ceased on Friday evening before the weekend’s memorial ceremony held for Jacques Bino, the unionist who was shot dead last week in his car at a road block.


Feedback from the different groups represented at the talks show that caution was the order of the day.


The president of the French employers’ federation, Laurence Parisot, stated on Monday that the negotiations were “very complex”. Urging caution, she added that, “we are not as close to reaching an agreement as one may think.”


Observers believe that road blockades could easily be built up again by protestors if the negotiations were to run aground, but no incidents were reported on the island on Sunday night - the second peaceful night in a row. Nearly all the road blocks were dismantled over the weekend by security forces.

In the French overseas territory of Martinique, which was on its 19th day of strikes, the unions called for a hardening of social protest action after employers failed to agree to all the conditions on pay rises.




Date created : 2009-02-24