The Spark

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

Guadeloupe:
Strikes Continue

Apr 6, 2009

This is a translation of articles from comrades of Combat Ouvrier (Workers Fight), the revolutionary workers’ group active in the struggles in the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Although the general strike was officially suspended almost a month ago, a number of strikes are taking place in Guadeloupe. The climate is such that rumors continue to spread that a new general strike will take place soon. This gives a sense of the atmosphere.

For the most part, these strikes were called in order to make the bosses apply the Bino Agreement. This agreement was signed during the strike (accept by those bosses associated with the MEDEF federation), but a number of bosses have not respected the agreement or have tried to reinterpret it as they like. The workers won’t agree that wages are increased by only 50 or 100 euros a month, instead of the 200 euros the bosses had agreed to.

In a large number of companies, the workers have already enforced the terms of the Bino agreement. And while the signed agreement officially concerned only 17,000 workers, today some 30,000 workers have already obtained the increase. Either the strikes have forced the bosses to give in, or the fear of the strikes led them to sign the agreement.

Nearly all the workers who have not obtained the benefits of the agreement resent the inequality and injustice. With this feeling, they are determined to fight to obtain the benefits. That includes the workers on the docks, those on the banana plantations, the employees of private clinics, those in the thermal energy plant at Moule, of the diesel plant of Jarry, of the IEDOM (Institute of Emission Controls in the overseas territories), and the workers in a number of hotels who have all taken their turn to strike. All together, today there are nearly a thousand workers on strike across some 15 different industries.

The workers of the thermal energy plant at Moule effectively blocked the functioning of the sugar factory of Gardel. As a result, the workers of the Gardel factory decided to redouble their efforts. On March 31, they sequestered the three directors of the factory after they had seen their pay stubs. Those bosses soon gave in.

Strikes are taking place on the banana plantations, where the békés, the old white planters, refused to sign the accord. The workers in a number of public enterprises that are not officially named in the agreement nonetheless decided to include themselves. The employees of the associations for agriculture are also on strike. At the post office, all the workers decided to go on an unlimited strike beginning April 2.

The raise of 200 euros net is for all the workers who receive a base salary between the minimum wage and 1.4 times the minimum (1,849 euros per month, or about $2,400 per month). But also in the agreement, those with a base salary between 1.4 and 1.6 times the minimum wage obtained a raise of 6% and those with a wage over 1.6 times the minimum gained a raise of 3%. So all together, there are a large number of workers concerned by the Bino agreement.

The general strike and the combativity of the militants of the coordination committee (LKP) have reinforced everyone. Everyone is aware that it is because of their general strike that they obtained these increases. Only the struggle pays.