13 Nov 2008

Thousands protest in Tahiti against pension cuts

8:20 pm on 13 November 2008

Thousands of public sector employees in French Polynesia have taken to the streets of Papeete at the start of an unlimited strike in protest at French plans to cut pensions.

The strike shut down the courts, the met service and the customs offices in the port as well as at the airport which stopped all merchandise from being cleared.

And in an unprecedented move, the French High Commissioner, Adolphe Colrat, was restricted to his quarters and prevented from travelling to New Caledonia.

The High Commissioner held inconclusive talks with strike leaders.

Fishermen say they will block the port of Papeete tomorrow as several container ships are due to arrive.

The action comes as the French senate in Paris is about to finalise the reform which the French assembly has already approved.

The public sector unions as well as political leaders in Tahiti have called for the cuts to be put off for at least a year and to open negotiations.

The reform package has been revised and a new ceiling for pension top-ups has been proposed at 18,000 euros a year.

This is 10,000 euros more than suggested by the French government.

France says it no longer wants to pay up to 75 percent more in pension entitlements to those who retire overseas.

The top-ups were introduced in the 1950s as incentives for those working in the colonies.