(reprinted from ILC International Newsletter No. 68 /437 Old Series, April 6, 2012)
General Strike and Massive Mobilisations Against "Pwofitasyon" in Guadeloupe (1)
Interview with Elie Domota, General Secretary of the UGTG trade union federation and spokesperson of the LKP Coalition
Once again, mass strike and demonstrations in Guadeloupe called by all the trade unions and LKP
Q: What is the motive of this mobilisation?
A: For nearly two years, the public authorities, the State and local authorities have steadily refused to receive us in the framework of the follow-up commission of the March 4th 2009 Accords, which, at the time, ended a forty-four day long general strike. Control over the prices of basic commodities and fuel has never been implemented. Today, these prices continue to rise.
Meanwhile, in the public as well as private sectors, workers' spending power and guarantees are under constant attack. So the local representatives across the entire political spectrum have decided to scrap the 40% subsidy paid to regional civil servants on sick leave. It is a direct attack on the wages of regional civil servants. This wrongdoing is given strong backing by left wing and right wing representatives, as well as by the State. It is also the dismantlement of public services via the closure of a number of classes in national education, of beds and even entire wards in the hospitals of Guadeloupe.
This movement also corresponds to our fightback against the "Jacques Bino" inter-professional agreement. After gobbling up State subsidies during three years, regional authority subsidies during one year, total payroll tax and wage contribution exemption during three years, some bosses - first and foremost those who are registered with the MEDEF (employers' organisation) - refuse to incorporate the 256 euro bonus into wages, as provided for in the February 26th 2009 agreement.
Another worry, and not the least, is the situation among youth. Guadeloupe counts no less than 60% of the under-25 age group unemployed. Guadeloupe, just like Martinique and Reunion Island, is one of the regions that is hardest hit by unemployment. The emergency plan for youth training and integration provided for in the March 4th Accord has never been implemented.
But, on the other hand, repression is going on full-speed ahead. On March 26th, Raymond Gauthiérot, the former UGTG general secretary was called before the judge in charge of the enforcement of sentences. He was given a three-month suspended sentence. Over fifteen comrades in the banana industry have appeared for summary judgement. A young shop steward was also summoned to the appeal court at Fort-de-France (the decision of the Basse-Terre court of justice which sentenced her to pay a 10,000 plus euro fine was annulled by the higher court). And there are still over twenty activists currently indicted in various cases.
Q: 10,000 took to the streets of Pointe-à-Pître on March 27th. What conclusions do you draw from that?
A: How did the State, the representatives and the bosses address the situation? Actually far more than 10,000 people took to the streets. It was a genuine success which clearly shows the determination of Guadeloupe's workers and people to continue fighting for another, fairer and more just Guadeloupe, freed from pwofitasyon. No answer from the State, no answer from the representatives or from the bosses, except from the president of the local MEDEF, a bosses' boss with no company, at the orders of the import and retail pwofitan (profiteer), which relentlessly challenges all the social guarantees of this country's workers. But what we do get are hundreds of armed police forces around Mister Hayot's shopping mall or on the roundabouts, or patrolling the Jarry industrial zone. It finally feels like an occupied country. In the face of such contempt and intimidation, Guadeloupe's people and workers marched with much dignity, pride and determination. It was electrifying. In comparison, such a demonstration would be the equivalent of putting over one million and a half people in the streets of Paris.
Q: And now what?
A: The fight goes on. Right after the mobilisation, all the organisations, cheered by the marchers, decided to carry on as of May 10th 2012. Meanwhile strikes have continued in some sectors: Super U (retail stores), the Goyave town hall, and the France-Antilles newspaper (the Hersant press group). This period of information and awareness will be punctuated by rallies, general assemblies, educational meetings and the distribution of flyers. We trust the future. Winning is the only option.
* pwofitasyon = (Creole), literally, "profitization" or heightened exploitation and oppression