17 Oct 2007

No end in sight to New Caledonia's long-running cement plant strike

4:41 pm on 17 October 2007

Cement factory workers in New Caledonia whose industrial action has made Noumea's building industry grind to a halt say they'll stay on strike for months if they have to.

Members of the Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers, or USTKE, are demanding an end to the Swiss company Holcim's monopoly on cement production, and more jobs at the plant.

The plant has been closed since late September and reports say up to four thousand employees in the wider building industry are without work as a result.

A union leader, Pierre Chauvat, says Holcim makes hundreds of millions of francs a year but most of those profits are sent offshore.

He says the 14 striking employees will remain off the job for as long as it takes.

"The strike will continue until we have an agreement with Holcim. We will strike for one month, two months, three months, four months. But you know, we won't let go of this situation."

Pierre Chauvat says the government in New Caledonia has given building contractors the green light to import cement from offshore to help ease the shortage, but that won't arrive for at least another ten days.