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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (September 10, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia's animal and plant protection service staff have engaged in a strike to protest against a planned restructuring of the territory's rural services, daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports.

Karel Meunier, a spokesman for the strikers, said they were worried about the plan, which purports to re-organize decision-making processes within their department to concentrate it at the management level.

"We get the feeling decision-making powers will be taken away from the officers, to the benefit of management only. Our credibility to the consumers and New Caledonia's partner countries would be jeopardized," he said.

Practically, the protest movement followers have decided to display what they call a "zealous strike": sanitary controls at airports, abattoirs are multiplied in order to slow down the department's processing capacity.

"Instead of controlling only one container or box out of ten, we are checking as many as possible," Meunier explains.

Negotiations with the territorial government were postponed end of last in order to allow agriculture and livestock minister Maurice Ponga to return from an overseas trip.

"This is all a misunderstanding, this project does not change much to the department's organization," rural service director Gilbert Grivault said.

Meanwhile, Force Ouvrière union has filed a full strike notice for September 25.

The Animal and Plant protection service currently employs 35 staff.

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