The Spark

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

Guadeloupe
– Animated Negotiations

Feb 9, 2009

The Guadeloupean strikers’ collective demanded that negotiations take place with all those who represent political and social power in Guadeloupe. They referred to the prefect (sort of like a governor), the presidents of regional and local councils, all the members of parliament, the employers association, the hotel bosses, and representatives of small business.

At the start these different parties wanted to have separate negotiations, according to their own interests. The collective outright refused to negotiate that way. After two or three days of equivocation, these representatives of local and national power ended up accepting, forced into it by the size of the mobilization.

The tone was established at the beginning of second round of negotiations on January 25. The strikers arrived a full two hours late. When someone raised it, the strikers explained the route was long because the police kept stopping them – unlike the bosses and officials who were able to arrive without any problem!

Raising the strikers’ demands, Nomertin, the head of the CGTG union, said, “We want a 200 Euro a month raise ($260). The strike will continue until this demand is won, as well as the establishment of the local minimum wage based on the real cost of living in Guadeloupe, where prices are higher than in France.”

The two union reps of the UGTG and the CGTG talked forcefully, applauded by the hundreds of strikers massed outside. There were loudspeakers outside so everyone could hear. And the radio and TV stations broadcast the debates. Apparently journalists and technicians of the broadcasting company were also on strike, but agreed to report the meetings so that everyone could follow all the negotiations....

Speakers from the strikers’ collective denounced the methods of the bosses, their way of reaping all sorts of public subsidies, of enriching themselves off the backs of the workers here and of going to open up businesses in countries where the wages are lower, where social protection doesn’t exist or is very weak, like in the Dominican Republic, Dominica or even Mayotte.

Fleming of the Guadeloupean Communist Party added, “You bosses speak of wages as a social charge. Wages represent a part of the work of the workers and they demand a better division of the riches – a little less for you, a little more for the workers.”

The regional council representative quibbled that a wage increase wasn’t the only way to raise purchasing power. Prices could also be lowered, especially by lowering various taxes. You would think the bosses asked him to convince the striking workers not to demand a wage increase. The strikers reacted to his arguments with scorn.

The thousands of people who followed this “debate-negotiation” were very satisfied to see their reps denouncing vigorously the crimes of the bosses and of capitalism, denouncing the inexplicable profit margins on products, that go far beyond anything justified by the shipping costs between Europe and Guadeloupe. They were happy to see the denunciation of the bosses’ appetite for subsidies and their many tax breaks and how they refused to improve workers’ wages. The signs of encouragement and support for the strike grew in the poor population!

Other “negotiations” are planned in the days to come.