INTERNATIONAL LIAISON COMMITTEE
P.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.
Tel. (415) 641-8616; fax: (415) 626-1217.
Web site: www.owcinfo.org
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IN THIS MESSAGE
1) Update: First Victory!: Agreement Signed, General Strike Ends after 44 Days! -- by ILC U.S. Coordinators Eduardo Rosario and Alan Benjamin (based on Communiqué from ATPC)
2) Final Week of Negotiations: An Account of the Last Week of the Struggle -- by Alan Benjamin (based on reports from Robert Fabert, editor of Travayé è Peyzan
3) Background Articles on the General Strike from Issue No. 325 (February 25, 2009) of the ILC International Newsletter
1) 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.
Eduardo Rosario and Alan Benjamin
For the ILC
INTERNATIONAL LIAISON COMMITTEEP.O. Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.Tel. (415) 641-8616; fax: (415) 626-1217.
Web site: http://www.owcinfo.org/
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"Drop the Bogus Charges Against Elie Domota!
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We just received a new appeal from the Caribbean Workers and Peoples Alliance (ATPC, in its French acronym) with all the details of the recent attacks by the French authorities against Elie Domota, general secretary of the UGTG trade union federation and spokesperson of the LKP Strike Collective. These attacks -- including the formal legal charge by the Attorney General of Guadeloupe of "inciting discrimination, hatred and violence against a category of persons based on their ethnic origin" -- have rained down on Brother Domota in the aftermath of the March 4 agreement between the LKP Strike Collective and the French government that ended ended the 44-day general strike in Guadeloupe.
The ATPC communiqué urges unionists and labor rights activists the world over to demand that the French government withdraw all the bogus charges against Elie Domota. In response to this urgent request, we have crafted a Sign-On Letter to the French Ambassador in the United States, which we urge everyone to endorse. Please fill out the coupon below and return it to us as soon as possible.
Our initial Sign-on Letter two weeks ago urging the French government to stop the repression against the strikers and to heed their legitimate demands obtained hundreds of signatories in the United States and thousands internationally. Together with the massive delegations to the embassies and consulates on all continents, and the mass demonstrations in the streets across France and other countries, our effort contributed to the wonderful first victory obtained on March 4, when the French government finally gave in and signed an agreement granting the general strike movement all its main demands.
This legal action by the French authorities came in response to a statement made by Domota on Thursday, March 5 -- the very day after the Jacques Bino agreement was signed. (Bino was the trade unionist killed the night of Feb. 16 by bullets now widely believed to have been fired by masked government provocateurs who infiltrated one of the barricades on the outskirts of Pointe-à-Pítre.)
In response to a question regarding the continued refusal by the MEDEF employers' association of Guadeloupe [representing the island's large business interests] to join the trade unions, the French government, and the Small Business Association in signing the Jacques Bino agreement, Domota stated: "Either they sign the agreement, or they will leave Guadeloupe. ... We have to be very firm about this. We will not allow a band of Béké [a reference to the white minority that owns and controls the overwhelming majority of the wealth in Guadeloupe] to re-establish slavery on our soil."
The MEDEF spokespersons insist that they could not sign the agreement because of a clause in the preamble that states that the economy of Guadeloupe is a "plantation economy." The real reason is not this: In the final days leading up to the signing of the agreement, the MEDEF spokespersons told the French government that they could not accept paying 100 euros of the monthly minimum wage increase after the expiration of the French government's three-year commitment to pay the full 200 euro increase.
For the past six days, the UGTG trade union federation and the LKP Strike Collective supporters have been demonstrating in front of the factories, hotels and businesses owned and run by MEDEF employers to demand that they sign the March 4 agreement. Every day new MEDEF employers are heeding the pressure from the workers and agreeing to sign the agreement.
This continued mobilization of the workers and people of Guadeloupe to ensure that all employers in Guadeloupe abide by the Jacques Bino agreement, following on the heels of the powerful show of force displayed during the 44-day general strike, have shaken the ruling Béké and their paymasters in metropolitan France to the core.
Laurence Parisot, president of MEDEF in France -- the equivalent of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- said that Domota's March 5 statement "includes threats and pressures that sow a veritable climate of terror in Guadeloupe." No small accusation this one!
Parisot's comments were echoed by Yves Jégo, French Minister of Overseas Departments and Territories, who said that that Domota's declaration was "inadmissible."
It was following these declarations by Parisot and Jégo that the French judicial authorities filed formal charges against Domota for "inciting racial hatred."
On Monday, March 9, Domota replied to these attacks. "This charge of 'inciting racial hatred' is nothing but a maneuver to try to intimidate the workers and people of Guadeloupe."
"If they pursue this legal action and summon me to appear in Court, we will use this forum to expose the true face -- the true social, historical and cultural reality -- of Guadeloupe's society in this year 2009. ... If I am put on trial, it will be the entire people of Guadeloupe who are put on trial. For 400 years, we have endured racism, repression and discrimination. ... It would appear that the Justice Department, the State, and Big Business interests don't want to move beyond this system of domination. Our position is clear: We will endure it no longer."
The attack against Elie Domota by the Attorney General of Guadeloupe -- acting on behalf of the Attorney General of France -- is an attack against the UGTG, which was the backbone of the general strike movement. It shows the total contempt by the colonial authorities for the democratic aspirations of an entire people. It shows the deep fear by the Béké, as the ATPC communiqué puts it, that their stronghold over political power and their privileges have been greatly undermined by the powerful general strike movement that swept the entire country.
By their declarations and actions, the French authorities are clearly aiming to undermine, and if possible torpedo, the agreement signed officially on March 4. The "first victory" that was won by the people of Guadeloupe through their heroic struggle is fragile. The colonial backlash has begun with its targeting of the spokesperson and most recognized leader of the general strike movement.
We urge you to join us in demanding of the French government: "Hands Off Elie Domota! Withdraw the Bogus Charges!"
Again, we thank you for your continued interest and support -- and we urge you to endorse the Sign-On Letter below directed to the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., which will be copied to concerned entities in France and Guadeloupe.
Eduardo Rosario and Alan BenjaminFor the ILC
PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME TO THE LETTER BELOW!
Monday, February 23, 2008
French Embassador to the United States
Telephone: (202) 944-6000
Fax: (202) 944-6072
We, the undersigned, have been following with great concern the unfolding situation in Guadeloupe in the aftermath of the March 4 signature of the Jacques Bino agreement that put an end to the 44- day general strike. We welcomed the agreement granting the workers and people of Guadeloupe their main demands.
But we've been alarmed to learn that no sooner had the ink dried on this agreement than a backlash against this powerful mass movement was launched by the employers in the MEDEF and by your government -- a backlash that has targeted Elie Domota, general secretary of the UGTG trade union federation and spokesperson of the LKP Strike Collective.
We cannot accept the legal charges leveled by the French judicial authorities against Brother Domota. These are not just unwarranted; they are clearly aimed at undermining the agreement and rolling back the gains won by the workers and people of Guadeloupe through their courageous and peaceful 44-day general strike.
We urge your government to withdraw all these bogus charges against Elie Domota and to put an immediate halt to the legal action against him. We will not rest until justice is served.
[follows list of signatories, with names, titles (for id. only), city, state and country.]
cc. Mr. Nicolas Desforges
Prefect of Guadeloupe
Mr. Yves Jégo
27, rue Oudinot
LKP Strike Collective
97110, Point a Pitre
Email: email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
[ ] Please add my name to the list of endorsers of this Sign-On Letter to the French Embassy in Washington, DC
UNION/ORG (stipulate if for id. only)
(please fill out today and return to email@example.com)