18 Oct 2006

French Polynesian works minister to lead talks with strikers

11:12 am on 18 October 2006

The French Polynesian government has nominated the public works minister, James Salmon as a dialogue partner with a union which has been on strike for five days to protest against the high cost of living.

The O Oe To Oe Rima union set up road blocks around the capital, Papeete, last week, sealing off the city for two days before opening two of the five access roads amid a public outcry over the traffic jams and business closures.

The government initially refused to consider any talks with the union unless the blockades were lifted but after contacts with the French high commission, it nominated Mr Salmon last night to talk to the union this morning.

Although the road blocks are illegal, the French high commission has said it prefers a dialogue to overcome the differences and restore social peace.

The strike leader, Ronald Terorotua, has warned of possible bloodshed and told local television that even tourists say prices in the territory are very high.

The government has said the price of imported goods, including fuel, are outside its control and points out that inflation in the territory is lower than in Australia and New Zealand.