30 Nov 2005

Air Vanuatu CEO dismisses claims of police breaking picket line

11:25 am on 30 November 2005

The Chief Executive Officer of Air Vanuatu has dimissed claims by the National Workers Union that paramilitary forces and police were brought in to break a picket on Monday.

Terry Kerr also denies that the picket outside the domestic and international terminals at Port Vila's airport involved current Air Vanuatu staff and says it was mainly a collection of former staff and unionists.

The union was picketing over the lack of progress in their industrial dispute with the carrier, calling for the reinstatement of former Air Vanuatu employees who were sacked after holding a strike in August.

The Union's general secretary Ephraim Kalsakau says picketers were physically threatened and intimidated into going back to work by by the intervention of Vanuatu Mobile Force and Police Force members.

But Mr Kerr says there were only a handful of police present in order to ensure normal operations were conducted at the terminals.

"And then later on in the day, a couple of VMF came down as well and they actually handled things very well and were very peaceful about it."