16 May 2003

Claims that a New Caledonian strike is crippling the economy

5:22 am on 16 May 2003

New Caledonia's public sector unions have been told their indefinite strike over the pension fund is crippling the territory's economy.

The leader of the opposition Alliance Party, Didier Leroux, says the strike, which started three days ago, should end and that unions should work with the government to solve the retirement fund crisis.

Police intervened in the work stoppage on Wednesday when the strikers blocked access to the mayor's office in Noumea.

The public workers are protesting against government proposals for bridging a 30 million US dollar deficit in the retirement fund.

Mr Leroux says the proposals include lengthening the years of work or increasing worker contributions to the fund.

He says all parties involved must be reasonable because the strike is crippling Noumea.

"There have been lots of flights cancelled to New Zealand, Australia, some internal flights....the administration is more or less dead or closed ....people have to be reasonable and start talking again.... we are facing the wall and we have to address the problem quickly and with very difficult measures to make"

Didier Leroux, Alliance Party leader in New Caledonia.