5 Aug 2009

France hopes for end to disruptions in New Caledonia

11:23 am on 5 August 2009

The French government says it hopes a resolution can be found soon to end the strike and violence in New Caledonia.

The strike began at the beginning of last week and has led to nearly daily skirmishes between the security forces and the USTKE union whose members have been campaigning for its leader's immediate release from jail.

The union claims the violence stems from the police using tear gas to dislodge peaceful gatherings, dismissing suggestions that threats by its members are behind many businesses' decisions to stay closed.

Supplies are running low and the building industry is at a near standstill.

A leading local politician, Pierre Frogier, has told television in Noumea that for the New Caledonia's economy the union is an abscess.

The conflict at the heart of the strike and violence stems from an employment matter at the domestic airline.

The latest bout of violence has left about 30 police officers injured and seen the arrest of about a dozen unionists.