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French overseas territories

Police wounded by gunfire in Martinique, protests close shops in Réunion

Article published on the 2009-03-07 Latest update 2009-03-07 15:46 TU

Youths face French police in Réunion(Photo: AFP)

Youths face French police in Réunion
(Photo: AFP)

Four police officers were slightly wounded during clashes between bosses and strikers on the French West Indian island of Martinique on Friday, as negotiations continued on the 30th day of the strike there. On the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, protesters closed supermarkets in support for their demands for wage rises and lower prices.

Government Minister Yves Jégo announced Saturday that he will visit the West Indies during the week of 16 March, to organise the consultations on social conditions in France's overseas territories ordered by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Speaking in the Paris region on Saturday, the General Secretary of Sarkozy's UMP, Xavier Bertrand, called the latest violence in Martinique "unacceptable". He also condemned the declaration by Guadeloupe's strike leader Elie Domota that bosses should pay the wage rises agreed to end the strike there or leave the island.

The shots were fired by unknown people in Martinique when police intervened during a clash between strike supporters and employers who had driven farming equipment across the island to the main town, Fort de France.

The bosses, mainly banana-growers anxious that their crop will rot if the strike continues, were prevented from entering the town by barricades. When other barricades stopped them leaving, fighting between the two sides broke out and police intervened with teargas.

In Réunion, supermarket owners said that they will refuse to negotiate with protest leaders while pickets force their shops to close. Several businesses were forced to close for several hours on Saturday, as protesters picketed them.

Inspired by the Guedeloupe strike, a committee, representing 45 unions and other organisations, has put forward a list of 62 demands, including a 200-euro rise for the low-paid and a 20 per cent reduction in the price of essential goods.

A new strike is set for Tuesday and could be extended indefinitely.