Stevedore employers at the Port of Marseilles, France, will extend individual labor contracts to dockworkers by the end of the week offering permanent jobs or early retirement, according to Jean Chutz, recently elected chairman of the port authority.

With the French dockers union poised to launch yet another two-day strike this week, the port's strategy seems to aim to break union solidarity by offering individual deals to dockworkers.Dockers have been at loggerheads with the government since October over government plans to do away with the existing dock labor program that offers employment guarantees to longshoremen.

The dockers voted late Wednesday to determine when they would strike this weekend. This will be the 16th two-day strike since October.

Marseilles is the last of the six public sector international ports in France to offer new employment terms to dockers under the controversial plan published last November by Secretary of the State for the Sea Jean-Yves Le Drian.

The Port of Marseilles is offering individual terms to each of the 2,050 registered dockers in the port, Mr. Chutz said.

The employers preferred to send out individual proposals rather than a general questionnaire as other ports have done before, he said.

"We didn't want there to be any pressure" on the dockers, Mr. Chutz said. The work behind these proposals "was like lace."

The smaller Port of Brest has held out against union calls to strike but at the end of last week, unanimously rejected employers' proposals for contracts.

Last week the central committee of French shipowners estimated that their members were losing $185 million (1 billion French francs) for each day the dockers are on strike.