10 Jan 2003

Solomon Airlines flights halted by strike over demand for harassment payment

4:14 pm on 10 January 2003

A strike by civil aviation workers has shut down the domestic and international services of Solomon Islands state owned airline Solomon Airlines.

Union officials say the strike by customs, immigration and quarantine officers is over the Government's refusal to pay them compensation for harassment suffered during the ethnic unrest.

The workers have been demanding the payments since June of last year.

The leader of the Public Employees Union, Clement Waiwori, says the strike will continue indefinitely, and a company spokesman says this means that the only flights possible will be mercy flights, such as medical evacuations.

The strike is the latest in a series of setbacks for the airline, which include the recent sacking of senior management staff in an effort to cut costs.

Mr Waiwori says they are aware of the company's financial plight, but he says the bottom line rests with the Government.

"we know from day one that the Government has been dishing out cheques and making a lot of illegal payments and if they can accomodate all sorts of illegal claims and illegal payments then I can't understand why they are not in a position to accept the genuine claims from the workers in civil aviation, immigration and meteorology...it is just unfair"