Original source: Strike leaders in Guadeloupe resumed negotiations on Friday after Paris pledged to boost pay for low wage earners by almost 200 euros (£176) a month.

But the Collective Against Exploitation (LKP), the alliance of trade unions and left-wing groups that launched a general strike on January 20, did not call off the action.

After meeting Guadeloupe Prefect Nicolas Desforges and two French government envoys, LKP leader Elie Domota said: ‘At the moment, the proposals seem particularly vague to us.’

French President Nicolas Sarkozy earlier announced more than half a billion euros in new subsidies for the Caribbean island, a tourist destination that suffers from widespread joblessness combined with the most expensive living costs in France.

Hundreds of police reinforcements have been deployed from mainland France to Guadeloupe to crack down on rioters.

After crisis talks in Paris with MPs from the island, Mr Sarkozy said: ‘Today we have a duty to listen to our fellow citizens and we have, at the same time, the duty to ensure the rapid return of civil order.’

He promised to fly to Guadeloupe to start a three-month exercise to gather opinions on how to reform mainland France’s relations with its overseas departments.

And Mr Sarkozy vowed that he would put aside 580 million euros (£512m) for action to raise living standards on Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Paris would make ‘support payments’ to low wage earners totalling almost 200 euros a month, as demanded by unions.

Up to 10,000 people protested in Martinique on Friday, where unions also launched a strike on February 5.

Most shops, cafes, banks, schools and government offices have been shut on both islands and the strikes have hit the key tourism industry.

The strikes have exposed the stark race and class divisions that blight the former colonies, where the economy remains under the control of ‘Bekes,’ the local name for whites who are mostly descendants of landlords and sugar plantation slave-owners of the 17th and 18th centuries.

French anti-racist activist Patrick Lozes complained that, ‘160 years after the abolition of slavery, the descendants of colonial settlers own 90 per cent of Guadeloupe’s wealth but represent only 1 per cent of the population.’

Unemployment in France’s overseas territories is running at more than 20 per cent, the highest rate in the European Union.


CONTRIBUTOR

Morning Star
Morning Star

The Morning Star is the socialist daily newspaper published in Great Britain.

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