AIR TAHITI STRIKE AIMS TO GROUND PLANES

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Oct. 9) – A labor union representing the majority of Air Tahiti Nui's ground personnel filed a strike notice for midnight Wednesday if negotiations do not produce an agreement working conditions.

[PIR editor’s note: According to their website, Air Tahiti Nui is French Polynesia's international airline headquartered in Papeete, Tahiti. The company was founded in 1996 and started flight operations in 1998. Along with Tahitian private investors, the Government of French Polynesia is the major shareholder in the airline.]

"The main problem is that work scheduling is more and more difficult, particularly as a result of the enlarging of the fleet," said union official Marc Douton. "That affects our daily work, not directly for security, but for quality, all the same."

He said the union represents some 60 to 70 Air Tahiti Nui salaried employees who would be involved in a strike.

The first round of talks between the union and Air Tahiti Nui management was held Monday morning to try and find a solution, and union representatives are awaiting counter proposals, Douton said.

If no solution is found, the union said the strike would begin Thursday and would be aimed at grounding the airline's planes at the Tahiti-Faa'a Airport at the time.

The official international airline schedule for this week shows there would be no Air Tahiti Nui planes on the ground at midnight Wednesday. But five flights are due to arrive during the day from New York via Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland and Paris via Los Angeles. And five flights are due to take off on Thursday to Sydney, Auckland, New York, Los Angeles and Paris via Los Angeles.

If an agreement is not signed before the strike deadline, the union said, none of the planes would have the right to take off. Since the strike involves personnel operating the check-in counters at the airport, there will be no passengers to board the planes and there will be no flight planes for the flights, the union said.

"This is not a bluff," Douton said. "We've put our cards on the table with management. If it doesn't listen to us, the planes will remain grounded."

Air Tahiti Nui, which began flying on Nov. 20, 1998, has a fleet of five Airbus A340-300 planes that operate 21 weekly flights to and from the Tahiti-Faa'a Airport.

In August, Air Tahiti Nui's overall 212 flights (105 arriving, 107 departing) accounted for 67 percent of the overall 316 flights (157 arriving, 159 departing) for a combined seven international carriers, according to French Civil Aviation Office statistics.

The Air Tahiti Nui flights carried 45,554 destination and transit passengers during August, or 73 percent of the overall 85,687 passengers flown into and out of Tahiti on those airlines.

In August, Air Tahiti Nui was named the Best Airline in the Pacific region for the fifth consecutive year in the 2007 Skytrax World Airline Survey. Skytrax, the world's largest independent airline poll, also named Air Tahiti Nui as having the Best Cabin Staff in the Pacific region for the fifth straight year.

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