The Spark

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

Guadeloupe:
Just before the Victory

Mar 9, 2009

On March 2, some workers started to go back to work in a number of businesses, especially little businesses in the Jarry industrial zone near Pointe-à-Pitre. Teachers went back to work in some schools.

The LKP (the struggle coalition) didn't oppose this. But during the meeting of March 1, Jean-Marie Nomertin, secretary general of the CGTG (General Confederation of Labor-Guadeloupe), called for a vote on the continuation of the movement, 4,000 hands went up in front of the Mutalité Building in Pointe-à-Pitre, the headquarters of the movement. The number of participants and the combativeness at this meeting was impressive.

Many important groups of workers remain on strike: the workers at big retail stores, school support staff, port workers, phone company workers, city workers, public transit workers, Social Security and unemployment compensation workers and sugar mill workers.

Carrefour super store workers go on strike

The employees of the two Carrefour super stores (similar to Wal-Mart), in Baie-Mahault and Abymes, didn't go on strike until March 3. These two immense commercial centers became the symbolic target of strike demonstrators, for they belong to the Bernard Hayot's group, owned by one of the richest békés of the French Caribbean and one of the most influential bosses in the MEDEF.

Strikers from other sectors came for several days to march with other strikers and held daily meetings, facing off against the police. The stores closed their doors. On March 2, thirty women strikers from other sectors of the CGTG blocked delivery trucks. There were some clashes with the police. The workers inside the stores came out and supported the women. The next day, the store workers went on strike.

In Baie-Mahault, on March 3, a thousand strikers held a meeting in front of Carrefour. The employees went out on strike. A delegation went to see the manager, De Reynal, to ask him his intentions concerning the 200 euros. He strongly and scornfully refused. He suffered for it. The next day all the employees went on strike with the support of the LKP. They maintained their picket all day long, getting the afternoon shift to join the strike.

The strikers of other stores came to support them throughout the day. There were light skirmishes with the police who threatened to charge at them.

The Carrefour workers declared they would remain on strike until they obtained the 200 euros, all the more as "the workers of Martinique who went on strike after us got an agreement with the Martinique MEDEF on it."

This strike began without a call for the strike by the union. The rank and file decided in the morning not to go in. When the union delegates arrived, they were faced with an accomplished fact. The inter-union committee of FO, UGTG, CGTG and members of the LKP, followed and then encouraged the workers to maintain their strike "until the end."

The strike of the Carrefour employees helped continue the movement. And even in the case of an official suspension of the general strike, these workers and many others will remain on strike.

Demonstration of strikers around Pointe-à-Pitre

Since the last week of February the "walking strike" is on the agenda. Every day a good thousand strikers go up and down the streets and have meetings in front of the MEDEF businesses. At their approach the businesses close. Some workers of these businesses join the strike. Others don't.

On March 2 these workers, after passing by Carrefour and Jardiland, a store belonging to Barbotteau, another big béké, went up and down the entire Jarry zone and blocked traffic. They dispersed at 3 PM and then went in front of a government office in Pointe-à-Pitre to support the delegation of LKP in negotiations about lowering prices at big stores.

Demonstrations at Basse-Terre

In another part of the island, there have been constant demonstrations to support the LKP delegation in negotiations over the price of water and public transit as well as over the situation of truck owner-operators.

In fact, since January 20, dozens of transit workers have lined up in front of the General Council with truck owner-operators who are practically camping at the front door.

On March 3 in the evening, a demonstration was held to the sound of the "gro ka" carnival drums in front of the prefecture, where the LKP delegation, the State representatives and the bosses meet to complete the written agreement to end the conflict. The LKP has still not signed the agreement.