The New Caledonian Kanak USTKE union called brought forward its call for a general strike to today after riot police took action yesterday to free a container ship blocked by the union.
The strike was planned for next week but the union activists have decided to gather in front of the police station in Noumea to protest against the arrest of their leader, Gerard Jodar.
The union took control over the port about three weeks ago to prevent global shipping giants Maersk and MSC from dominating the freight market.
But police moved in and arrested 17 people.
An USTKE representative, Pierre Chauvat, says they have now called for a general strike.
"Now we are gathering a general assembly towards the police station where Mr Jodar is in jail and we want to make some pressure with the general strike that has been effective since last night to bring thousands of workers [together] to free Mr Jodar from police."
Mr Chauvat says they will continue their action until a solution is found for the dispute.