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Guadeloupe strike goes on while economy sinks

Video by FRANCE 24 , Oliver FARRY , FRANCE 2

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-05

LKP unionists on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have still not signed a proposed agreement to end the six-week strike, while the local economy is on the verge of collapse.

Rumours that a crippling 42-day-long strike in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe would finally end died over the weekend, leaving the French government and the strike's organisers locked in a new trial of strength Monday over demands for a wage increase.

The Collective Against Exploitation, an umbrella organization for workers’ unionsknown by its Creole abbreviation LKP, reached a deal with some local employers for a 200-euro monthly wage increase Thursday evening. But other employers’ groups — including MEDEF, France’s biggest bosses’ group — have so far refused to sign it.

LKP took a harsher tone on Sunday night, warning that it would step up pressure on employers to sign the agreement.

“Not only are we going to ask for an extension of the agreement,” Elie Domota, the LKP spokesman said Sunday in front of 3,000 supporters, “but we are going to go from factory to factory to get it signed.”

A new march "in running shoes"

The LKP was initially hoping that the deal, which right now only applies to small and medium-size companies, could be extended to all companies by decision of the French labour ministry.

But the MEDEF’s inflexibility on the issue prompted Domota to call his followers to gather for a new march “in running shoes” Monday outside Guadeloupe’s main city of Pointe-à-Pitre.

"About 46,000 employees are going to earn an extra 100 euros at least from the state, but we have to go get the remaining 100," Domota said.

Minister urges MEDEF to behave responsively

Meanwhile in Paris, Interior Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie urged the MEDEF Sunday to “behave responsibly”.

According to Willy Angele, the head of the MEDEF in Guadeloupe, the island’s economy could badly suffer from the strike.

“The liquidation of a number of small companies could mean 10,000 to 14,000 job losses,” Angele told the French daily Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui en France. “The unemployment rate could jump from 23% to 30%.”

Shops were slowly reopening across Guadeloupe, and gas stations were all back in business on Monday.

The LKP said it would decide Monday afternoon on the strike continuation, depending on whether the French government representative on the island agrees to hand in an official document committing to all the agreed points.


Guadeloupe's economy on verge of collapse



French Prime Minister Francois Fillon warned Tuesday that Guadeloupe's economy was on the verge of collapse as he stepped up appeals for an end to a six-week strike on the Caribbean island.
"It can't go on much longer because the economy in Guadeloupe is staring into the abyss and there will be considerable damage linked to the length of this conflict," Fillon told Europe 1 radio.
French authorities signed an accord on Friday with the LKP movement of unions and leftist groups that launched the strike on January 20 to press for higher wages on the island, one of France's overseas department.
The agreement providing for a 200-euro (253-dollar) monthly increase for low wage earners has yet to be endorsed by management, but that was expected to happen later on Tuesday.
Most shops, schools and government offices have remained closed during the strike that has laid bare tensions between the island's black majority and white business owners.
A union activist was shot dead during rioting at the height of the conflict last month in Guadeloupe.
"I hope everyone will uphold this agreement," Fillon said.
The prime minister also warned union leaders not to follow through on their threats to force reluctant businesses to abide by the accord.
"This is not the way things are done in the republic. We have rule of law and I have given instructions to Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie to ensure this is respected," he added.
A framework agreement on increasing the minimum wage was also signed overnight in nearby Martinique, but union leaders said a month-long strike there would continue until a separate deal to bring down the prices of basic goods was reached.
Both Martinique and Guadeloupe are legally parts of France, with full citizenship and representation rights, but nevertheless suffer from some of the greatest poverty and unemployment rates in the European Union.


Date created : 2009-03-03