Jail threats as Tahiti airport strike lingers

1:07 pm on 24 May 2017

Striking firefighters in French Polynesia are being threatened with jail sentences if they fail to comply with French orders to maintain a basic roster at Tahiti's airport.

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Photo: RNZ

The warning has been issued by the French High Commissioner Rene Bidal as a strike by firefighters hired by the airport company is entering its second week.

Mr Bidal said a minimum service needed to be guaranteed to assure international flights and medical evacuations.

He said the right to strike wasn't a ticket to hijack an economy reliant on tourism.

Mr Bidal has used his powers to force more firefighters to report for work in Tahiti whose airport is run by a private company, ADT.

His warning of possible jail terms also applies to doctors who are alleged to have issued sick notices to strikers.

There was a sharp debate among local politicians, with one labelling the strike as terrorism tolerated by the local government.

The president Edouard Fritch has rejected the assertion, saying his government has no influence on ADT but settled its pay dispute with the firefighters running the territory's airports.

He said the government also organised a ferry service to help travellers get to islands from where some flights were possible.

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