As of the morning of March 2 a general strike in the French Caribbean department of Guadeloupe continued despite a preliminary agreement; Guadeloupe prefect Nicolas Desforges told the strikers that “you have to know to end a strike.” The action, which began Jan. 20, is the longest general strike France has experienced in more than 20 years.
The preliminary agreement meets the strikers’ demand for a wage increase of 200 euros ($259) a month for the lowest-paid workers, to be financed with 50 euros from the companies, 50 euros from the local government and 100 euros from the national government. Some employers signed on to the accord, but the local branch of the MEDEF—the Movement of Businesses of France, the most powerful French business association—refused. The Collective Against Extreme Exploitation (LKP), which has led the strike, insisted that MEDEF members need to sign the accord before Guadeloupeans can return to work. LKP spokesperson Elie Domota, secretary general of the General Union of Guadeloupe Workers (UGTG), said the strikers would go “from company to company” with protests to get the accord signed.
Talks were scheduled to resume on March 2 in the nearby department of Martinique, which has been on strike since Feb. 5. Michel Monrose, president of the Feb. 5 Collective, the coalition leading the strike, said that a settlement would require a reduction in prices in addition to a wage increase. With a population of about 400,000, Martinique has an official unemployment rate of 21.2%. As in Guadeloupe, the strike has been generally peaceful, but confrontations between youths and the police broke out on the nights of Feb. 24 and 25. (Le Monde, France, March 2 from Reuters; AFP, March 2; Alterpresse, Haiti, Feb. 27 from Ase Plere An nou Lite)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 1