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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (December 6, 2000 - (Oceania Flash/SPC)---USTKE (Kanak and Exploited Workers Union), affiliated with the pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) political party, said on Monday that it would from now on "distance itself" from the party, RFO radio reports.

The comment came from USTKE’s newly elected President Gérard Jodar.

Jodar, who was elected last weekend during USTKE’s annual congress, replaces long-time USTKE leader Louis Kotra Uregei.

Speaking at a press conference soon after taking office, Jodar said from now on USTKE will offer a "political alternative" to the French territory’s workers.

"FLNKS, to us, is no longer the organization we would have wished our workers to have."

He said the two options were either for FLNKS to enter into a deep reform process, or for USTKE to create its own political party.

The new president also said that from now on, USTKE will withdraw from the French territory’s union umbrella, which earlier this year signed a so-called "social pact" to implement a procedure aimed at preventing the crippling effects of strikes on the territory’s economy.

Part of the pact called for the raising of the minimum wage in the territory to US$ 1,000 U.S. a month.

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