29 Nov 2005

Striking Air Vanuatu workers threatened by paramilitary and police forces

9:40 pm on 29 November 2005

Vanuatu's National Workers Union says the Minister for Home Affairs George Wels has given paramilitary forces the power to use firepower against picketing workers.

Former Air Vanuatu workers and unionists picketed outside domestic and international terminals yesterday in frustration at the lack of progress in their industrial dispute with the carrier, with workers caling for the reinstatement of 26 employees, most of whom were behind an August strike.

However, the action was cut short by the intervention of Vanuatu Mobile Force and Police Force members, with picketers reportedly intimidated into leaving their action.

And the Union's general secretary Ephraim Kalsakau says workers were warned they would lose their jobs if they continued striking, and were physically threatened in the process.

"It seems that the Minister for Home Affairs had instructed the military force that if we started taking action, the military force were given the power to use live ammunition to stop any attempts by the Union to stop work."