1 Feb 2019

SLN strike in New Caledonia enters second month

4:05 pm on 1 February 2019

A strike at New Caledonia's SLN nickel company is about to enter its second month.

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia

SLN smelter in Noumea New Caledonia Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

The stoppage, which began after the New Year's holiday, affects three of the company's four mines which supply ore to the smelter in Noumea.

The two striking unions want SLN to rescind its restructure of the working week, which calls for more hours on working days but fewer days of work to increase productivity.

The changes had been agreed to by the unions' umbrella organisations but are being rejected by the workers at the mine, with some saying they won't work on Sundays.

Last week, ore stocks at the smelter in Noumea have shrunk to a third of its usual supply which has forced the plant to cut nickel production.

With its 2,000 staff SLN is New Caledonia's biggest private sector employer, but in the past six years it has run up losses of $US1 billion.

Close to bankruptcy in 2016, the French state and SLN's parent company Eramet advanced almost $US600 million to keep SLN going.

At the current rate of incurring losses, the loans are expected to be depleted by the end of this year.