30 Nov 2005

Police in New Caledonia clear access to blockaded fuel depots

4:26 pm on 30 November 2005

French police in New Caledonia have lifted a blockade by striking unionists who had cut access to the territory's fuel depots.

They moved in at dawn - less than 24 hours after CSTNC members set up the blockade as part of a campaign to force the SLN nickel company to rehire two sacked workers.

The police action comes just days after a similar police dawn raid to lift a blockade of the port of Noumea.

The CSTNC union has been on an indefinite strike at SLN for more than two weeks.

Discussions have failed to end the dispute which may force SLN to shut down its smelter in Noumea at the end of the week because of a lack of ore to process.

The Employers Federation in New Caledonia has withdrawn all cooperation from multilateral bodies and organisation in protest at the poor social climate in the territory.

This comes only days after an estimated 1,500 employers had rallied outside the French high commission in protest at its inaction in the face of massive disruptions to traffic and business by the CSTNC union.

The Employers Federation's head, Jean-Yves Bouvier, has told RFO radio that employers have withdrawn in what he likened to a strike of their own.

"The behaviour of some unions is such that it amounts to a daily coup by those who are in paid employment on the businesses while it's impossible to sanction those who are at fault."

Jean-Yves Bouvier.