The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

The Banana Workers Have Won!

Jul 17, 2017

This article is translated from the July 7 issue of Lutte Ouvrière, the paper of the French revolutionary workers’ group of that name.

After 42 days on strike, the banana workers of Guadeloupe have made the bosses give in. Wednesday, June 28, they agreed to pay the workers what they owed them for holiday pay, overtime, and other things.

The strike committee already made sure that a calculation was made for each worker for what was owed for the last three years. For some, this came to a few thousand euros. The bosses also agreed to pay for the days of strike and they made a first payment of 700 euros to the workers on Monday, July 3.

They also agreed on some first steps to improve the terrible conditions of work in the banana plantations. These were not totally won in the agreement, but it’s certain that nothing will be like it was before the strike.

This is a real victory for the workers and their strike committee, supported by the CGTG (a union federation).

If the banana bosses finally gave in, it was because the strike really hit them where it hurts: in their wallets. Bananas were not being exported in high enough numbers. They were rotting on the ground or in the containers that couldn’t leave. Twenty plantations were on strike and there weren’t enough non-strikers to cut, move, and export the bananas. The bosses who pretended at first that there was no strike finally recognized all this officially.

The strikers won because of the tactic of the “marching strike.” Every morning between 150 and 250 of the strikers met at 5 to go to the plantations and talk to the non-strikers and, every time, some of these joined them. One of the most fruitful actions was when they hit the boss of the bosses: the president of “Synproban” (the union of banana producers), Francis Lignières. The marching strike went to his plantation and made many stops, pulling workers out on strike with them. They camped at least two nights in that area. His plantation was blocked. This was the decisive action.

The third and fourth day of negotiations, almost 400 workers went to support their delegation. On their return and at the reading of the agreement, there was an enormous amount of enthusiasm and the workers lifted our comrade, Jean-Marie Nomertin, on their shoulders. On Thursday, June 29 in the evening, a meeting of strikers enthusiastically marched to Capesterre-Belle-Eau.

The determination of the strikers paid off. But all are aware that they must remain alert to make sure the agreement is actually carried out. The day after the strike many dozens of workers went to certain plantations where the bosses had threatened to fire some workers. They made the bosses take back these threats.

Monday, July 3, the majority of bosses paid the 700 euros or a first part of it. One of the most repressive bosses refused to pay. But the workers think he won’t have a choice and they are confident that if they reinforce their watchfulness, he will pay under pressure.

New meetings will happen in the coming days to control the application of the agreement.