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Government hopes new measures will end deadlock

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-02-26

The French government hopes a new raft of propositions, including adding 80 euros a month for certain Guadeloupe workers, will end the crippling strikes on the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

The French government says it has come up with new propositions to end a crippling five-week general strike on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. Government spokesman Luc Chatel indicated Wednesday that “new propositions” that have “the merit of simplicity” will be put to union leaders.


Yet, on the ground, the situation remains clouded and uncertain. Negotiations between representatives from the government, unions and employers are to resume Friday at 3pm GMT in Pointe-à-Pitre, the island’s biggest city, after they were suspended again on Tuesday. 


The government insists it is optimistic a resolution to the crisis in Guadeloupe can be achieved. “But it would be wrong to think that the situation can be resolved in one fell swoop," French Secretary of State for Overseas Territories Yves Jégo told Le Parisien – Aujourd’hui en France newspaper.


"We are working on ways to reduce food prices, but this will take time. Nothing has been accomplished yet, but there is real scope for things to happen."


First night of violence in Martinique


Meanwhile, the neighbouring island of Martinique experienced its first night of violence since the island followed Guadeloupe into a general strike on Feb. 5.


At least three cars were burnt and several stores raided overnight Tuesday as negotiations on a possible salary increase were going on in the nearby regional administration building.


In Martinique as in Guadeloupe, unions continue to protest against prices of basic foodstuffs that are much higher than in mainland France.


Declining spending power fuels protests


Civil servants sent to Guadeloupe and Martinique from France enjoy a 40% weighting on their salaries to reflect this difference. But for ordinary workers, salaries are only 15% higher than the average in France.


In the supermarkets, products are between 20% and 155% more expensive, according to a survey carried out by Le Parisien newspaper.


Part of the problem comes from the fact that most food products are imported. There is little retail competition - only half of the major French retail chains are present on the islands - and salaries do not reflect the more expensive standard of living.


While a bit has been done in France to address the problem of declining spending power, for many islanders, life is getting progressively less affordable.


According to a BVA poll published Wednesday, 78% of French people say the protest movement is justified.


Date created : 2009-02-25