By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, Oct. 2) - A strike at New Caledonia's international flag carrier, AirCalin, which has been disrupting flights to and from New Caledonia for the past week, shows no sign of resolution.

The strike was called at the weekend by two unions: New Caledonia's USTKE (Union of Kanak and Exploited Workers) and commercial and navigating staff union, the SNPNC.

The unions are asking for improvements of employment conditions for AirCalin's flying and commercial staff mainly hostesses, stewards and commercial staff.

The conditions are related to benefits, allowances compensations and holidays.

It is estimated over 90 percent of the 120-strong workforce are following the strike and AirCalin says it can only rely on ten air hostesses and stewards.

For the past six days, regional flights to and from Nouméa's La Tontouta international airport, have been severely affected: these include such destinations as Japan (Osaka, Tokyo-Narita), French Polynesia (Pape'ete), Wallis and Futuna, Vanuatu and Australia (Brisbane).

In other cases, alternative flight arrangements also had to be made by AirCalin management, who have on occasions chartered other regional companies, including Air New Zealand on its eastern routes.

Passengers were sometimes stranded in transit due to flight cancellation or serious delays.

Several rounds of negotiations held since Friday last week between AirCalin management, USTKE and SNPNC, have so far failed to satisfy strikers.

An earlier offer from the management, involving the implementation of a set of "urgent" issues within the next three months, was turned down by the unions, who said the offer was "insufficient".

Talks were now reported to have stalled.

USTKE spokeswoman Nathalie Bourguignon told the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes it was currently "impossible to pursue talks in such a tense climate".

October 2, 2003

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