Martinique general strike ends in victory

March 21, 2009

A 38-day general strike in the Caribbean colony of Martinique ended on March 14 with the signing of a protocol between the government and the February 5 Collective, a coalition of unions and other social movements named after the day the strike began.

The agreement grants the coalition's key demands. About 20,000 people celebrated the historic victory in a march through the

AFP reported that "the signing ceremony drew a crowd of thousands who gathered outside the island's head administrative office. They repeatedly chanted a slogan 'Matinik leve,' or 'Martinique stand up' in the local
Creole language."

On the day before, thousands marched through the capital, Fort-de-France, chanting slogans directed at the bekes, the wealthy white descendants of colonists and slave-owners who dominate Martinique's economy. Most of the island's population is descended from African slaves brought to work on its colonial-era sugar plantations.

The draft agreement, reached early in the morning of March 11, calls for a €200 monthly wage increase for 47,000 low-wage earners, with smaller increases for those with higher incomes. Workers will get retroactive pay to March 1.

These and other terms are similar to the agreement that ended a 44-day general strike on the neighbouring island of Guadeloupe on March 4.

Michel Monrose, the head of the February 5 Collective, told AFP that the collective "reserves the right to re-launch the strike if the accords are not respected."

In the Indian Ocean colony of La Reunion, a coalition headed by trade unions continues to press for an accord similar to those reached in the Caribbean colonies.

In recent weeks, the island of 800,000 inhabitants has
seen huge demonstrations of up to 35,000 marching in support of their demands. So far, however, ongoing negotiations with representatives of the employers and French government officials have stalled, achieving only a freeze on rents in social housing.

The coalition called for another massive mobilisation on Thursday, March 19 in solidarity with the general strike scheduled for that day in France.

In Guadeloupe, Elie Domota, a key leader of the 44-day general strike, is now facing a legal assault by French government.

Domota has been charged by the French Attorney General for French overseas departments and territories with "fomenting provocations and promoting the use of force to extort the signing" of the accord. A statement from the US-based solidarity group, the International Liaison Committee, argued that the charges against Domota may "foreshadow an attempt by the French government to invalidate, through the courts, the agreement signed officially by all the concerned parties".

The charge comes as the Guadeloupian employers federation MEDEF, makes attempts to renege on the March 4 settlement signed with the strike movement.

[Abridged from]

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