14 May 2003

Unions told they hold the key to solving crippling New Caledonian strike

5:51 pm on 14 May 2003

An opposition MP and prominent businessman in New Caledonia is calling on public sector unions to meet the government halfway to solve the crisis facing the territory's retirement fund.

The call by Didier Leroux comes amid an indefinite strike by four public sector unions which has forced the shutdown of essential services and paralysed the capital city of Noumea.

Mr Leroux says the unions have to face the reality that there is not enough money in the fund to continue with the current level of retirement payments.

The territory's pension fund had a deficit of 30 million US dollars last year.

He says the unions are failing to take into account changes to people's working habits or local demographic changes.

"they retire earlier, and they live longer. People are not working long enough to pay for retirement pay, which is getting longer and longer. There'll come a moment when you cannot sustain paying someone during his retirement three or four or five times what he has paid."

Mr Leroux says the government has proposed two recommendations which are to increase the years of work or increase worker contributions to the fund.