On March 14 the French government and the government of the French Caribbean department of Martinique signed an accord with the “Feb. 5 Collective” ending a general strike that had paralyzed the department since Feb. 5. The accord, which the parties had agreed to on March 11, meets a principal demand of the strikers: a raise of 200 euros a month (about $253) for low-wage workers, with smaller raises for other workers. Major business owners had agreed earlier to bring down prices on some 400 basic items by 20% one month after stores reopen. Negotiations are to continue until March 27 on 87 additional points, including pensions and water and agricultural issues.
The Feb. 5 Collective, a coalition of unions and grassroots organizations that led the strike, agreed to a “suspension of the conflict” but “reserves the right to start the movement up again,” said the collective’s president, Michel Monrose. The accord was called an “exit from the crisis” rather than an “end to the conflict.”
Some 20,000 people marched on March 14 in the departmental capital, Fort-de-France, and other parts of Martinique to celebrate the accord, chanting: “We are marching towards victory.” The settlement is similar to the accord won on March 4 by a 44-day general strike in the nearby overseas department of Guadeloupe, which helped trigger the strike in Martinique and similar protests in the overseas department of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
Unions and left parties in European France said they were in part inspired by the example of the overseas departments as they planned a massive one-day general strike on March 19 to protest the French government’s pro-business response to the world economic crisis. “The victory of the women and men of Guadeloupe calls for more victories” was the title of the call for the March 19 mobilization by major left and social democratic parties, including the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Socialist Party (PS). (Le Monde, France, March 16; Nouvel Observateur, France, March 17 from Reuters; Life on the Left blog, March 18; “Appel unitaire pour le 19 mars: la victoire des Guadeloupéennes et des Guadeloupéens en appelle d’autres,” on the NPA website, undated).
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 22