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France

Unionists say they 'will not stop'

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-02

LKP unionists on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe said they would go to businesses to demand they sign an agreement to raise salaries. Spokesman Elie Domota said they could go on striking for "40 days more."

The prefect of the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe said the general strike that is now in its sixth week, should be ended on Monday, with the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP) responding that the strike would continue until a deal was signed.


Protestors on the island signed a partial wage deal with two small employer groups on Friday but did not call an end to a five-week-long strike that has paralysed the island.

The agreement to grant the lowest-paid workers a wage increase of 200 euros ($254.3) a month will affect a minority of employees since the largest employer organisations boycotted the talks, the local government’s employment office said.

“This agreement still has a narrow base and needs to be widened since for now it only affects between 15,000 and 17,000 employees out of 85,000,” Guadeloupe’s Prefect Nicolas Desforges told French radio.

Citing security fears after weeks of violent protests and angry exchanges with unionists, the main employer group, MEDEF, and three other organisations refused to negotiate.

Youth gangs have clashed with police in violent street battles and a union leader was shot dead in the protests, which were sparked by the rising cost of fuel and food on the import-dependent island.

The agreement between unions and employer groups, which will take effect on Match 1, was bolstered by French state aid.
 
It will affect workers paid up to about 1,400 euros a month.  Other employees will see a wage increase of about six percent, to be negotiated in each sector, Henry Berthelot, secretary general of the moderate CFDT union, told Reuters.

“Since it’s a minimum agreement, I think there won’t be any difficulties for (the other groups) to sign it,” he said.

The French state will contribute half of the wage increase, or 100 euros, from 2009 - 2011, part of a package of measures to quell the unrest and bring economic relief to poor families.

Prices on Guadeloupe, which is part of France and the European Union, are generally higher on mainland France while wages are lower, and unemployment stands at more than 20 percent.

The protests have also exposed underlying tensions between workers and a wealthy white minority, many of whom descended from slave-era colonists, and have spread to neighbouring Martinique.

 

Also on Saturday, the government announced it had indicted and imprisoned the assassin of union representative Jacques Bino.

 

Date created : 2009-03-02

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