Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Guadeloupe strike ends after deal

Nicolas Desforges (left) and Elie Domota sign the agreement (4 March 2009)
Unions warned the government and businesses not to break their promises

Union leaders on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe have agreed to end a 44-day-old general strike after most of their demands were met.

The announcement came after the LKP collective signed a deal with officials and business owners to raise workers' pay and lower the cost of basic goods.

Negotiations are continuing in nearby Martinique over a similar stoppage.

The strikes have crippled the French overseas departments and on several occasions erupted into violence.

Some residents alleged that a wealthy, white elite was controlling imports and prices.

Two weeks ago, union leader Jacques Bino was shot dead by rioting youths at a barricade in Guadeloupe's main city, Pointe-a-Pitre.

Hundreds of police and gendarmes have been deployed from France in recent weeks to support local security forces and help restore order. Dozens of protesters have been arrested since the strikes began.

'Important moment'

Wednesday's agreement covered a wide range of issues, including the price of bread, the hiring of teachers and reduced air fares. But most importantly, it will see the wages of the lowest-paid workers supplemented with a 200-euro ($254; £178) monthly payment.


Prices on Guadeloupe and Martinique are generally higher while wages are lower than on the mainland. Unemployment - at more than 20% - is three times as high, and GDP per person just over half as big.

Negotiations on other union demands - including the lowering of the prices of 54 basic goods, are continuing.

Guadeloupe Prefect Nicolas Desforges, the highest representative of the French state, hailed a "new departure" for the island.

"This is an important moment," he said. "[Guadeloupe] must get back to work from tomorrow. It must make up the delay."

"It must work twice as hard because, in order to be paid an additional 200 euros, there must be companies to pay that sum, and for them to pay it, they must prosper, and for them to prosper, they must work."

But LKP leader Elie Domota warned that unions would resume the strike if the government or businesses reneged on their promises.

"This means work will resume, but we'll remain mobilised over the coming days and weeks," he said.

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