Tensions in the French Caribbean remain strong amid a new wave of overnight violence in Martinique and conflicting reports about the progress of negotiations with trade unions in Guadeloupe.
The situation remains blurred in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique after negotiations on wage and purchasing power increases appeared to stall on Wednesday evening against a backdrop of weeks of general strike.
Despite the optimistic statements of representatives of the LKP trade union movement concerning the prospect of agreement on a 200-euro increase for the lowest wages, FRANCE 24 correspondents in Guadeloupe's main city of Pointe-à-Pitre remain cautious.
“It’s been one step forward, two steps back,” says Cyril Vanier, a France 24 special correspondent on the island. “It’s impossible to tell if and when there’s going to be a deal.”
Discussions, which started at 4:00 pm local time (7:00 pm GMT), were suspended at 2:30 am. The talks are expected to resume Thursday at 2:30 pm (5:30 pm GMT).
"We’re used to the government’s twists and turns," LKP leader Elie Domota declared as he left the building. “We don’t trust the government. The strike goes on," he added.
Discussions were tense, France 24 correspondents report, adding that talks almost turned into a fist-fight inside the meeting room. A sizeable crowd of LKP supporters gathered outside the building while playing drums on what should have been a carnival night.
Negotiations between the French government, employers and unions have so far stumbled on the thorny issue of a 200-euro increase for lower wages demanded by the LKP. As yet no agreement has been reached over who will fund the wage increase. The LKP, who reportedly secured a pledge for an increase of 180 euros, are said to be still fighting for the remaining 20 euros.
However, an agreement on this issue is unlikely to spell the end of negotiations. “It will allow us to discuss the last 19 points,” the LKP told AFP.
Rough night in Martinique
In the neighbouring island of Martinique, which has been on strike for three weeks, stores were looted overnight Wednesday in a sixth night of violence. Negotiations on wages were suspended at 3:00 am Wednesday and are set to resume Thursday.
“Last night was a rough one,” says Willy Bracciano, a France 24 correspondent in Fort-de-France, the island's main city. “These young looters have developed a tactic. They draw police downtown by setting trash on fire while they go pillage stores on the outskirts of the city.”
According to an Opinion Way poll to be published Saturday in the weekly Figaro magazine, 66% of people in the French Caribbean and 47% of those surveyed on mainland France say government propositions are not enough. Polls also suggest mainland France is showing growing signs of impatience: 51% of people surveyed say they would support giving Guadeloupe its independence, while 80% of Guadeloupians are against it.
Date created : 2009-02-26