22 Aug 2005

Striking Air Vanuatu workers back on job, negotiations imminent

3:42 pm on 22 August 2005

Air Vanuatu workers have temporarily ended their strike action after agreeing to negotiations tomorrow with the airline's management.

Hundreds of international and domestic travellers were stranded in Port Vila and Luganville this morning after airline workers went on strike at 4:30am local time.

The secretary general of the national workers union, Ephraim Kalsakau says workers are frustrated over a breakdown in discussions about a collective bargaining agreement, and grievances over job security and severance pay.

He says the airline's CEO Terry Kerr has phoned him from Sydney with an offer of immediate negotiations if the strikers return to work this afternoon.

Mr Kalsakau says the workers agreed to return to work, provided that shareholders are present in the meeting with the CEO tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Labour minister George Wells has described today's strike as illegal, and has had the matter taken to court.

But Mr Wells says the Union has led the workers astray.

"The problem we have is that the union, instead of educating their workers about their rights, they, to my view, have some hidden agenda behind. So the government has to take some quick action - the attorney general to give his concern to the public prosecutor, to handle the case and prosecute all those involved in the illegal strike that has been happening today."

Ephraim Kalsakau