As French unions isolate a general strike by workers in Guadeloupe, workers in Chad have set next Monday for their general strike while the leader of the Spanish UGT hints at one (or stalls for time?) in Spain.
French unions isolate Guadeloupe general strike
A general strike against rising living costs has been in progress on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe since January 20. Forty-seven trade unions, associations and political parties under the umbrella organization LKP—The Committee against Extreme Exploitation (lyiannaj kont pwofitasyion in local dialect)—have brought economic activity to a standstill.
A massive demonstration of 25,000 out of a total population of 410,000 took place on January 24 in the capital Pointe-à-Pitre. All shops, supermarkets, schools and public services were closed.
Although the fight against the increasing cost of living affects all of France’s citizens and Guadeloupe is officially part of the French Republic, the traditional labour organizations in metropolitan France have isolated and ignored the struggle and media coverage has been rare and superficial.
The demands of the strikers led by the majority trade union, the UGTG (General Union of Guadeloupean Workers), have centred on the price of basic necessities. They call for an immediate reduction of 50 centimes on car fuel, a lowering of prices of transport and water, a rent freeze, an increase of €200 in the minimum wage, permanent contracts for all temporary workers and the right to education and training for youth and workers. One demand calls for priority to be given to Guadeloupeans in key employment posts and an end to racism in employment. The development of local production to satisfy the population’s needs and an end to taxes on fertilizers and cattle feed also figure among the total of 146 demands advanced by the strikers.
While the strike has been solid and peacefully run (40,000 attended a January 25 carnival to support the strike), the French government has sent extra CRS riot police to intervene wherever and whenever it sees fit. Memories are still fresh in Guadeloupe of the 100 people shot to death by the CRS during a demonstration in 1967.
Spanish union hinting at general strike... or stalling?
A general strike in Spain over workers rights is possible, although the situation at present does not call for such a move, the general secretary for one of Spain's two main unions UGT said on Monday.
"For the time being, the government has committed to guaranteeing unemployment protection," the UGT's Candido Mendez said in an interview with local radio station Cadena Ser.
But he warned that while the current situation does not warrant a general strike, this would be considered if firing costs were lowered and workers rights were cut.
The Spanish government and unions will negotiate the extension of unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless in meetings over the next few weeks, Mendez said.
As Spain heads for its worst recession in 50 years, with joblessness surging to almost 14 percent, unions have been calling on the government to protect unemployed workers rights.
Currently, Spanish unemployment benefits cut off after as little as 18 months. Spain has the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone, but also has some of the highest firing costs in Europe for long-term contracts.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has backed away from labour reforms after the country's other main union, the CCOO threatened a general strike.
General strike in Chad set for Monday
Unions in Chad have called for a general strike on Monday to protest the rising cost of living coupled with stagnant wages in the west African country.
UST, which represents more than 50 unions in Chad, called for a national protest to send a warning to the government, which it says is refusing to raise public sector wages in line with price increases.
"Workers, members of UST, decide unanimously to observe a general strike," because the government refuses to increase wages "despite immense financial resources generated by the sale of petrol", the body told national radio.