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French Caribbean

Guadeloupe negotiations stalled, Réunion Island may join strike

Article published on the 2009-02-13 Latest update 2009-02-13 09:35 TU

People have been queuing at a petrol stations in Guadeloupe, where the general strike enters its 24th day Friday(Photo: Dominique Chemereau/AFP)

People have been queuing at a petrol stations in Guadeloupe, where the general strike enters its 24th day Friday
(Photo: Dominique Chemereau/AFP)

The collective representing strikers in the French West Indies island of Guadeloupe, the LKP, suspended negotiations with employers Thursday evening, demanding that the government sign an outline of an agreement made on Saturday. But the agreement would have the French state pick up the tab for pay raises, which Prime Minister François Fillon has rejected. As a strike in nearby Martinique enters its eighth day, the Indian Ocean island of Rénion is due to stop work on 5 March.

In neighbouring Martinique, Yves Jégo, the junior minister in charge of France’s overseas departments, presented 39 proposals to find a solution to the week-long strike the.

The French government has declared that it is not going to underwrite pay increases in Guadeloupe or Martinique.

“It is not the state that funds salaries,” reiterated Jégo Thursday.

But employers in Guadeloupe offered five proposals that would require state funding, including a 1.6 per cent pay raise for low-paid workers and a twice-yearly bonus of 150 euros that would not be subject to income tax.

The LKP is still insisting on a 200-euro-a-month pay raise, in return for the government exempting employers from 108 million euros in social charges.

Though negotiations have stalled, the collective said Thursday that butane gas deliveries would resume. Support staff at the Pointe-à-Pitre airport went back to work Thursday.

In Martinique, which starts its eighth day of general strike Friday, Jégo offered 39 proposals, including the immediate reduction of the price of petrol by eight cents a litre. He also confirmed that the cost of basic goods would be lowered by 20 per cent, as agreed by supermarket unions on Tuesday.

Negotiations between strikers and employers are to resume Friday, where the “5 February” group representing strikers will react to the proposals.

Before heading back to Paris, Jégo said that that the “culture of social dialogue” was “stronger” in Martinique than in Guadeloupe. But he upset the Martinique collective by saying they were less well organised than their counterparts in Guadeloupe.

And the crisis may be spreading east. Martinique has been on strike for over a week, Guadeloupe enters its 24th day Friday, and now the island department of Réunion, in the Indian Ocean, is set to start its own strike on 5 March.

Unions, politicians and community groups have said they would protest against the high cost of living. One group said they would also be asking for a 200-euro pay raise.