Sunday, March 15, 2009

Two general strikes that paralyzed French possessions in the Caribbean and inspired workers back in France have ended. Here are two articles from the LibCom site on the end of the strikes.
Martinique general strike called off:
Organisers of a crippling 38-day anti-inflation strike in the French island of Martinique lifted their protest Saturday with the signing of a protocol with the government.

"This protocol will mean the lifting of the strike call," said Michel Monrose, head of the February 5 Collective group which launched the protest.

But he added the Collective "reserves the right to re-launch the strike if the accords are not respected".

The signing ceremony drew a crowd of thousands who gathered outside the island's head administrative office. They repeatedly chanted a slogan "Matinik leve," or Martinique stand up in the local Creole language.

The Caribbean island, about 7,000 kilometres (4,350 miles) from Paris, has been paralyzed for over a month by strikes and protests against the high cost of living, with a similar strike in neighbouring Guadeloupe resolved earlier.

Unemployment on the island stands at 23 percent, while most of its food products, shipped in from France are very expensive.

The unrest has also sparked tension between the island's black majority and the local whites -- descendants of former colonisers and slave traders -- who control a large part of Martinique's economy and retail trade.
Guadeloupe general strike comes to an end:
Union leaders on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have agreed to end a 44-day-old general strike after most of their demands were met.

The announcement came after the LKP collective signed a deal with officials and business owners to raise workers' pay and lower the cost of basic goods. Negotiations are continuing in nearby Martinique over a similar stoppage.

The strikes have crippled the French overseas departments and on several occasions erupted into violence. Some residents alleged that a wealthy, white elite was controlling imports and prices.

Two weeks ago, union leader Jacques Bino was shot dead by rioting youths at a barricade in Guadeloupe's main city, Pointe-a-Pitre.

Hundreds of police and gendarmes have been deployed from France in recent weeks to support local security forces and help restore order. Dozens of protesters have been arrested since the strikes began.

Wednesday's agreement covered a wide range of issues, including the price of bread, the hiring of teachers and reduced air fares. But most importantly, it will see the wages of the lowest-paid workers supplemented with a 200-euro ($254; £178) monthly payment.

Prices on Guadeloupe and Martinique are generally higher while wages are lower than on the mainland. Unemployment - at more than 20% - is three times as high, and GDP per person just over half as big.

Negotiations on other union demands - including the lowering of the prices of 54 basic goods, are continuing.

Guadeloupe Prefect Nicolas Desforges, the highest representative of the French state, hailed a "new departure" for the island.

"This is an important moment," he said. "[Guadeloupe] must get back to work from tomorrow. It must make up the delay."

"It must work twice as hard("Twice" as hard? Do they get paid "twice" as much-Molly) because, in order to be paid an additional 200 euros, there must be companies to pay that sum, and for them to pay it, they must prosper, and for them to prosper, they must work."

But LKP leader Elie Domota warned that unions would resume the strike if the government or businesses reneged on their promises.

"This means work will resume, but we'll remain mobilised over the coming days and weeks," he said.

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