Tension is mounting in the Caribbean. After Guadeloupe, where reinforcements disembarked from France on Sunday in order to dismantle the blockades and put an end to the riots, an indefinite strike begins in Martinique, Monday, November 22. At the head of the claims: the end of the health pass and the vaccination obligation for members of the health staff, in a department where 39.4% of the population has a complete vaccination schedule, according to the latest figures from the Regional Agency de santé (ARS), published on November 16. Despite an initial mediation with the government earlier this month, the unions filed a strike notice on November 15 for the following Monday. Franceinfo takes stock of the situation.
Against the health pass and against the vaccination obligation of caregivers
The inter-union, signatory of the strike notice filed on November 15, is made up of twenty organizations from all sectors such as health, education, transporters, fishermen and the arts.
One of the first demands of the inter-union is to remove the vaccination obligation for people working in medico-social establishments (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.), an obligation which was to be applied from November 14. It also asks that unvaccinated caregivers not be punished, refusing the measures taken by the government (suspension of the caregiver’s employment contract and suspension of payment of his salary) throughout the national territory. The inter-union also wants the elimination of the health pass in Martinique, as the daily France-Antilles reminds us.
The demands also include the strengthening of recruitment and equipment in health establishments and the alignment of the status of members of the “health” personnel of the National Education with their colleagues of Education. Il is also required to stop the “transformation dschools in vaccinodromes “ and the end of “propaganda for vaccination in schools “.
Against the dear life
In the list of thirteen demands made by the unions, there is also a demand for the government to find solutions to the increase in fuel and gas prices. They are also calling for an increase in wages, social minima as well as an end to the development of precarious jobs. The Convergence nurse union also specifies, in a press release dated November 12, that “The fees [des infirmières et des infirmiers libéraux] have been blocked for twelve years and that [leurs] loads keep growing. “ The unions also want a discussion to be opened for taxi drivers and artists affected by the economic crisis.
During the vote on the 2022 overseas budget, the Minister, Sébastien Lecornu, clearly recognized that the economic dynamism of the Antilles is hampered by certain monopolies and certain outdated commercial practices, which contributes to the high cost of living.
For free blood tests for chlordecone levels
The desiderata also relate to the full coverage of chlordeconemia tests, which measure the concentration of chlordecone in the blood. Chlordecone is a pesticide that was widely used in banana plantations between 1972 and 1993. It is suspected to be responsible for many diseases such as prostate cancer. A test costs 140 euros, according to Dominique Théophile, LREM senator from Guadeloupe.
In December 2020, the ARS set up free screening for the level of chlordecone in the blood. In March, the agency specified that these tests would be, initially, intended for families who participated in the “allotment” program and then for couples wishing to have a child, as well as pregnant women and their future child. In the last phase, screenings must be open to all Martinican families.
On site, blockages and disturbances to be expected
The intersyndicale made an appointment with the demonstrators in front of the house of the unions, in Fort-de-France, Monday morning at 8 a.m. (i.e. at 1 p.m. in France). But it remains very vague on the actions that could be taken. “There is no molokoi operation [opération de ralentissement] planned, affirms Bertrand Cambusy, the general secretary of the CSTM and member of the intersyndicale, questioned by the 1st Martinique. “There will be strong actions, but which should not penalize the population too much“, he believes.
On social networks, several messages evoke blockages on the roads, as in Guadeloupe. This is why part of the population rushed to hypermarkets and service stations on Friday in order to stock up. On Saturday morning, motorists lined up near the gas pumps, but the situation became more fluid over the weekend. Disruptions are also expected in schools, nurseries and municipal services, alert the mayors of Lorrain, Ducos, Lamentin and Fort-de-France, the largest city in Martinique.
Other corporations have already announced that they would also follow the movement, such as Sara (Société anonyme de la raffinerie des Antilles), or the Ducos penitentiary center, where some agents could go on strike.
The first government responses do not satisfy the unions
This grouping of unions met the government through the national mediator Danièle Toupillier on November 3, without being able to reach an agreement.
However, the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, and that of Overseas, Sébastien Lecornu, have retained “two provisions” in order to “take into account the health situation [de la Martinique] : the general free testing will be maintained until December 31, 2021; the vaccination obligation (complete vaccination schedule) will be required for healthcare personnel by the same deadline of December 31, 2021 “, the government said in a press release. This date corresponds to the end of the state of health emergency in this overseas territory (both department and region).
For the moment, no meeting with the government is planned for Martinique. Unlike Guadeloupe, for which negotiations are to open Monday evening between the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, accompanied by the Minister of Overseas Territories, Sébastien Lecornu, and the Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, with elected officials from the Isle in order to allow them “to present their analysis of the situation on the spot”.