16 Jun 2009

Leader of New Caledonia's USTKE union due in court today

11:08 am on 16 June 2009

The leader of New Caledonia's mainly Kanak USTKE union, Gerard Jodar, is due in court today accused of impeding air traffic during last month's clashes at Noumea's domestic airport.

Mr Jodar was among about 30 unionists to be arrested after riot police who used tear gas in a protracted confrontation with hundreds of unionists on strike at Magenta airport.

They first clashed outside the terminal and then on the tarmac where USTKE members entered two parked ATR aircraft of the domestic carrier Air Caledonie.

Mr Jodar and several of his supporters were in detention for five days but two weeks ago they were released pending their trial today.

After a general strike last week, the union met mediators and announced an end to their strike, saying they had struck a deal.

No details have been released and the airline has refused to sign any arrangement that would pay workers for days they had been on strike.

Its boss says he won't bow to union terrorism.

A weekend demonstration in Noumea saw thousands rally against the union whose protests caused massive disruptions to interisland aviation.