Elie Domota: “The Movement Is Not about to Quit”


HRIS: Are you satisfied with the results last night?

Elie Domota: Overall, yes.  This applies only to the employees of the member companies of the employers’ organizations.  We will set up a procedure to extend the agreement to all employees in Guadeloupe in the coming days.

Julien: The agreement shows that your demand for a raise of 200 euros was realistic.  Why do you think the employers and the government took so long to recognize it?

Elie Domota: Most certainly to prevent the idea from catching on in France.

gwada97190: Do you think that the small business owners in Guadeloupe will recover from this strike?

Elie Domota: Yes, it’s actually the small business owners who made the proposals to end the crisis.  People always talk about the general strike’s consequences for the economy, but if everyone had negotiated from the get-go, we could have resolved the conflict in less than ten days.

gwada97190: How could small tradesmen provide the salaries this month, when they were prevented from working for over a month?

Elie Domota: If the companies had negotiated from the get-go, the problem could have been solved in five days.

sidney97180: What will be the movement’s next move if the Medef (Mouvement des entreprises de France, French Business Confederation) doesn’t sign an agreement?

Elie Domota: The Medef consists of 450 firms employing fewer than 4,000 workers.  Let’s not give it more significance than it actually has.  On the other hand, the agreement is entirely valid.  As I said, in the coming days, we will demand its extension to all companies in Guadeloupe, including the Medef members.  And I reiterate that this agreement was concluded in the presence of the prefect and through the mediation of four labor directors, including two envoys from Mr. Fillon himself.

Chloe: Why does the Medef refuse to sign the agreements?

Elie Domota: Because the Medef members refuse to pay wage increases while they can.

Loulou: It’s said that you had a fight with Willy Angèle (President of Medef-Guadeloupe).  Does this altercation threaten the negotiations?

Elie Domota: It’s a ploy of the big boss to torpedo the negotiation.  Unfortunately for Angèle, his knowledge of labor law is very limited.  He thought that the absence of the Medef and its friends could prevent the negotiation from taking place.

BHM: If your demands were met, what would become of the LKP (Liyannaj Kont Pwofitasyon, Collective against Exploitation)?

Elie Domota: For now, the demands have been split into three levels: the immediate demands, on which we are currently working, concern purchasing power.  The LKP has a mission that will not disappear.

We have demands regarding training and employment as well.  We are now the only region of France where there is no training center of the AFPA (Association nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes, National Association of Professional Education for Adults) type. The youth unemployment rate exceeds 60%.  Each year, nearly 1,000 young people leave school without diplomas.  We also have demands for environmental protection.  All these topics will be addressed in the medium term.

libeerte_971: Do you think it is possible to pay for strike benefits?  Who should pay?

Elie Domota: For now, this issue has not been addressed yet.

guadalupe: Aren’t you afraid of an inflationary spiral, companies seeking to raise prices to restore their profit margins to make up for the salary increases granted?

Elie Domota: If companies increase their prices, who will buy their products?  I don’t think that’s the best solution.  On the contrary, it’s necessary to boost consumption through lower prices.

dan: Many companies in big trouble will file for bankruptcy, and the number of the unemployed may explode in Guadeloupe.  How do you see the future?

Elie Domota: The number of the unemployed has always been explosive here.  Guadeloupe has had a 40% unemployment rate for the last fifty years.  I believe that all public policies (the Perben law [providing specific assistance contracts and granting exemptions from social security payments], the Girardin law [giving tax benefits for investment in realty in the French overseas territory], etc.) have been failures because they have consisted of giving money to employers, particularly large employers.  To date, no report, no audit, can tell us where these tax exemptions went, what purpose they served, and how many jobs these policies have created.

anonymous: The local economy is heavily based on tourism.  Doesn’t the prolongation of the movement risk crippling the island’s economy?

Elie Domota: No.  Indeed, much of the public revenue comes by way of tourism. But, ultimately, that develops neither tourism nor Guadeloupe.  It allows only a small number to put a lot of money in their pockets.  That has to change.  We must establish a real policy for tourism to promote Guadeloupe as a destination and to develop luxury tourism, unlike in Saint-Domingue or Cuba, for example.

gwada: After the agreement this morning, is the general strike suspended?

Elie Domota: Not yet.  We have an appointment with the prefect this afternoon to discuss the other points about the lower prices for staple foods and other necessities: bread, water, and transportation, above all.

Doudou: After the announcement made by Nicolas Sarkozy, what do you expect from his next visit to the Caribbean?

Elie Domota: Nothing.  Mr. Sarkozy does what he wants, but this is not a visit that will solve the problem.

Lajos: What is your position on the possible independence of Guadeloupe?

Elie Domota: Currently the LKP platform does not pose a question of autonomy or independence.  The people of Guadeloupe will choose their own destiny when the time comes.  On the other hand, the problem of economic autonomy, especially food self-sufficiency through agricultural production, is already posed.  It’s a real and serious problem.  And that is why there is a section in the LKP platform devoted to agricultural production and food self-sufficiency.

rene: Doesn’t Guadeloupe also have a problem of anti-white racism?

Elie Domota: I invite you to come to Guadeloupe and see for yourself.  Anyone who has tried to denigrate this movement has done so by manipulating two topics: racism and independence.  But they are not part of the LKP demands.

Lo: What is your position on the situation of Martinique?

Elie Domota: What happened in Martinique was predictable.  The problems in Guadeloupe and Martinique are similar.  We are in regular contact with our Martinican friends.

alain: Do you think your struggles can be “exported” to other overseas territories and even to France itself?

Elie Domota: I don’t think the term “export” is appropriate, but the struggles waged here, as well as the problems encountered here, are experienced by other workers in the world, even if there are some differences.

Doudou: What reactions do you have to the “appropriation” of your action by José Bové, Olivier Besancenot, and Ségolène Royal?

Elie Domota: The word “appropriation” is a bit much.  I don’t think anyone can appropriate the LKP movement.

patoo971: How do you see the aftermath of the movement?  Do you think it will actually be able to change things in Guadeloupe in the long term?

Elie Domota: The movement is not about to quit.  As I said, the LKP is here to stay.

The original article “Elie Domota : ‘Le mouvement n’est pas près de s’arrêter'” was published by Le Monde on 27 February 2008.  Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi (@yoshiefuruhashi | yoshie.furuhashi [at] gmail.com).