Saturday, 31 January 2009

On Striking

Ah this strike - we are into day 12 now and it shows no sign of relenting. The Prefet and his camp have been in talks with the unions with not much success, now they are considering the mere 147 demands that have been put forward! The unionists threatened to take it to the streets, which we hope won't happen. If violence did erupt, they would send out the gendarmes to squash it. Someone was telling me how the gendarmes are if not respected, certainly feared - and you can see why with all their huge guns and things! However, it has all been very calm so I doubt that will happen.

It has been interesting listening to all people have to say on the issue - depending on who you ask you get such different opinions. Locals tend to be very supportive, telling me that the Guadeloupean people have been exploited and cheated and tricked, either by the rich (usually white) business owners or the State. Non-locals will point out the harm this is all doing to the economy, particularly tourism but also all other sectors. The large cruise ships are going to Martinique instead at a loss of a huge sum per boat. Although the locals then point out that much of the money from tourism does not go into the local economy in any case.

It certainly does seem unfair that people come from France with more money and set up businesses here, taking away the jobs from locals (with such limited space, there are only so many jobs that you can have available!) - but as a french region and department they have every right to do so, just like locals could go to say Normandy and do the same. My pet complaint is that imported food is the same price or cheaper than local - no way to encourage vital local agriculture. But all I hear rings so familiar - they are the same problems the world over.

A main point of contention is petrol - I feel that in our current world it is now the love of petrol which is the root of all evil... Although I guess it is the love of the money that comes with it. The petrol stations are often owned by whites from France and they recieve a fixed sum from all sales. They are introducing automatic pumps so no need for staff, not only affecting jobs here, but meaning they get more of a profit, little of which goes into the local economy. Many businesses such as water, banks, electricity are based in France, and also do not benefit the local economy.

Apparently the cost of rent and bills etc here is around 42% of people's salary, compared to something like 25% in France. There is also a demand for increase in the minimum wage.

As I listen to all the opinions, I can see both sides, but it does seem to me that the only way all these demands will be met and these particular issues resolved is by the country becoming independent (which is what many unionists would like) but this of course would bring its own set of problems.

Apparently currently 1 in 6 people here are unemployed. This figure will surely shoot up after this strike. Interestingly, though, the demands being made by people here are actually more moderate than those in France mainland! There is very little mention of all this in the French media, and I have to say I can't see why they would worry about this little island of 400,000 people when they have 60 million or so in France to take care off! One person said that the benefit for France of having Guadeloupe is higher than vice versa, but that would surprise me. Show me the figures!!

The agriculteurs have been taking their produce to the streets to sell, but there are so many people it is hard to get anything. Some shops bravely stay open, only to get closed down by the unionists at some point. There have been many people protesting, with their favourite song: Gwadloup ce payi en nou ce pa ta yo (Guadeloupe is our country not theirs) with a groovy carnivelesque beat! Speaking of the carnival, it has been cancelled this Sunday and my niece told me in horror that they may cancel the Carnival week holiday (half term) as they have missed so much school!

I have to say I can see why God created work - it is rather demoralising seeing everyone mooch around with nothing to do, no purpose or structure to the day. In a way more tiring than working, and certainly less satisfactory! So let's hope that things speed up and get resolved - it is not expected to by Monday but mid-week at the earliest.


Anonymous said...

Striking is hard and a hardship, but in our capitalist world it is one of the few ways the worker has to get his voice heard. We can not just allow the powerful to have free reign to continue to exloit more and more with impugnity. I will be standing with strikers here in Beaumont in the coming weeks. All workers must stand in unity. We have the power if we choose to use it.


Hevs said...

Thanks for your perspective Shannon! I haven't come to a conclusion yet on my consideration as to how we view striking from a biblical perspective but I shall bear your comments in mind as I reflect...

Trotsky said...

Fight on comrades! My head hurts.