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French overseas departments

Strike ends in Guadeloupe, gears up in Reunion Island

Article published on the 2009-03-05 Latest update 2009-03-05 11:02 TU

Guadeloupe prefect Nicolas Desforges (l) and strike leader Elie Domota (c) sign a deal ending the strike, Pointe-a-Pitre, 4 March 2009(Photo: Reuters)

Guadeloupe prefect Nicolas Desforges (l) and strike leader Elie Domota (c) sign a deal ending the strike, Pointe-a-Pitre, 4 March 2009
(Photo: Reuters)

The 44-day general strike on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe ended Wednesday night, with strike leaders signing an agreement that includes measures to improve living standards on the island. Striking and negotiations continue on neighbouring Martinique, while trade unions on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean called for a strike movement to start Tuesday. France’s overseas departments have been pushing for salary raises and compensation for the high cost of living.

Between 12,000 and 35,000 people gathered Thursday in Reunion Island’s two largest cities, Saint-Denis in the north and Saint-Pierre in the south, for rallies against the high cost of living. Afterwards, union leaders announced a general strike to start Tuesday.

Their demands are “like in the Antilles, for a 200 euro a month pay raise for low salaries,” said Cospar, the collective leading the strike that brings together unions, community groups and left-wing political parties.

In Guadeloupe, strike leaders signed a detailed agreement Wednesday night which includes a 200 euro a month wage increase for low wage workers, financed by employers with help from the state.

“Today, our struggle has paid off,” said Elie Domota, the head of the LKP, the umbrella organisation of unions, community groups and politicians leading the strike. He called for businesses to reopen, and life to return to normal on the island.

The 165-point agreement addresses a wide range of issues, from the cost of bread, to the price of airline tickets, to education reforms.

The Medef employers association, representing some of the island’s largest businesses, refused to sign the agreement. However, the employer associations that did sign it represent “more than 30-to-40,000 employees,” said Domota, which he said s acceptable. He warned that employees of the companies that did not sign would likely continue to strike.

The strike on nearby Martinique enters its second month Thursday, with businesses remaining closed, and roads blocked by protesters.