Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Friday, March 06, 2009

General Strike Wins Advances In Guadeloupe

Inspiring news from Guadeloupe - the general strike there led by the LKP coalition of unions, political and community groups has forced major concessions from the authorities, a fine example of what can be achieved by resolute collective action and solidarity. As we remember the historic struggle of the British Miners that began 25 years ago this week it is good to see an example of a strike that succeeded in achieving many of its objectives. The workers of Guadeloupe should be on their guard though, capitalists and colonialists are not known for quitting their side of the struggle, as ever, the struggle continues....
The following came from the ILC group and was posted on the RevLeft forum -

Update: First Victory!: Agreement Signed, General Strike Ends after 44 Days!

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We received this morning a communiqué from the Guadeloupe-based Caribbean Workers and Peoples Alliance (ATPC) informing us that an agreement was signed Wednesday, March 4 at 8 p.m. between the LKP Strike Collective of 49 trade unions and organizations, the local governments, the employers' groups, and the French State. The agreement grants the strikers their top 20 immediate demands and allows for continued negotiations, with a tentative agreement reached on many points, on the remaining 126 mid-term and long-term demands.

The general strike was formally ended by vote of the LKP Strike Collective, with the unions and community organizations declaring this a "First Victory." The communiqué of the ATPC ends with the following words: "This was a FIRST VICTORY -- a victory obtained the workers and an entire mobilized people, and by the international solidarity with this courageous struggle."

The Jacques Bino Agreement -- named after the trade union leader who was killed on the barricades the night of February 16 -- that was signed on March 4 covers the following categories: wages/purchasing power, housing, transportation, education, employment, public services, trade union rights, environmental protections and culture.

Twenty of the articles, the List of Immediate Demands of the LKP Strike Collective, were fully met by the French authorities and employers' associations and were signed and codified into the agreement. Here are some of the provisions of the March 4 agreement:

On Wages: The agreement grants a 200 euro monthly increase to workers making the minimum wage, or SMIC, and up to 1.4 times the minimum wage (that is, between 1321 euros and 1849 euros). All workers making between 1.5 and 1.6 times the minimum wage (between 1849 euros and 2113 euros) get a 6% pay increase. Workers making 1.7 times the minimum wage or more (more than 2113 euros) get a 3% wage increase.

On Price Cuts: Lowering by 5% to 10% of costs for 100 basic staples and commodities, and for utilities (water, oil, gas, electricity, etc.) The cost of meals in the student cafeterias is cut by 20%, with a commitment to increase by 50% the produce of local farmers in all the meals provided by the student cafeterias. Family canteens will receive subsidies for their meal plans. Lowering of public transportation costs by 20%. Agreement by the State to fund 40,000 round-trip Paris-Point-a-Pitre airline tickets at 340 euros for low-income families, for the purpose of family reunification. Cuts in banking fees. Compensation of 40,000 euros for all small transportation owners in the aftermath of the reorganization of the urban and inter-city transportation plan.

On Housing: Moratorium on all foreclosures, evictions of renters and utility cutoffs. A Special Fund of 3 million euros is created to provide subsidized housing for 17,000 senior citizens and 7,000 handicapped persons. Freeze on all rents, accompanied by a tax cut of 9% for all renters. End of speculation in land for hotels and resorts, particularly non Guadeloupan chains and banking interests, with financial assistance to local businesses involved in tourist industry.

On Employment: Emergency Recovery Plan to provide jobs for 8,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 26, with the creation of a "Bill of Rights for Employment for all Working People in Guadeloupe." Creation of an agency to provide employment for job seekers, with the creation of jobs to meet the employment needs. All students on waiting lists for education at all levels will be admitted into a school.

On Agriculture and Fishing: Protections and subsidies for the agricultural producers, and protection of 64,000 hectares of agricultural lands. Stabilization of prices for fishing industry. State aid for fishing hatcheries and for modernization of fishing fleet and processing.

On Trade Union Rights: Improvement in State recognition of union prerogatives and rights, with fuller respect for, and enforcement of, collective-bargaining agreements and labor legislation. Designation of mediators to resolve specific conflicts that have arisen at RFO, Air France, International Airport, etc.

On the Environment: Creation of 50,000 hectare nature preserve.

On Culture: Commitment by the State to establish Creolle as a language for all public buildings and services, on the par with French.

The workers and people of Guadeloupe were ecstatic over this victory. People took to the streets spontaneously to celebrate.

Reactions in the mainstream French press, understandably, were less than sympathetic to the strikers. Writing in Les Echos on March 5, journalist Jean-Francis Pécresse laments that the French government gave in to the "mob pressure of the LKP Strike Collective, signing an agreement whose preamble proposes nothing less than the creation of a 'New Order in opposition to the Model of the Plantation Economy.' What value should we place on agreement signed under pressure from the LKP militia, an agreement imposed by intimidation?"

The scorn and racism of the colonialist power and of the white ruling class elite on the island, the Beké, comes through loud and clear in this article. How dare Pécresse use the term "mob" to describe a valiant, organized, peaceful (despite all the provocations by a 5,000 contingent of French Riot Police, the CRS) and disciplined people -- the overwhelming majority of whom are Black -- who were able to withstand the hardships of 44 days of a general strike, with the creation of soup kitchens, agricultural procurement committees, self-defense committees, picket lines, cultural committees, and barricades.

The impact of this victory will be felt around the world. There can be no doubt about this. We will continue to inform our readers and supporters of the repercussions of this powerful movement.

As the declaration of the ATPC notes, one of the keys to victory was the international solidarity expressed day after day with the general strike in Guadeloupe. All who signed our Open Letters, organized delegations to the French Embassy and Consulates, organized forums, broadcast news on their shows, publicized this movement in their press and postings, and/or sent statements to the strikers in Guadeloupe contributed to this victory.

Thanks to all for your support.

In solidarity,

Eduardo Rosario and Alan Benjamin
For the ILC

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