Petroleum Strike In Vanuatu Disrupts Air Vanuatu Flights

Vanuatu National Workers Union walks off the job for 6 hours after grievances not addressed

By Godwin Ligo

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, April 4, 2017) – Over 75 employees of the Pacific Petroleum Company, in Port Vila and Luganville, Santo, who are all members of the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU), staged a 6-hour strike yesterday.

They claimed that the negotiating time allowed for their grievances to be dealt with lapsed last week, but without fruitful outcome.

This strike action caused a major disruption to Air Vanuatu flights domestically and regionally.

The Air Vanuatu Procurement and Public Relations Officer, Paul Pio, confirmed to the Daily Post yesterday morning and again in the afternoon that all Air Vanuatu domestic services were affected throughout the whole of yesterday following the strike action.

“All Air Vanuatu domestic flights in the North and the South of Vanuatu were cancelled yesterday.

“We operated only one flight- the ATR aircraft which left Port Vila for Tanna yesterday at 1.30pm.

“On its return, the ATR aircraft did Port Vila-Noumea flight at 4.30pm yesterday and upon return from Noumea it will do Port Vila-Santo flight at 8pm (yesterday evening) returning to Port Vila late in the evening.

“Otherwise all domestic flights yesterday were cancelled and we had to revise schedules for tomorrow (today).

“All passengers travelling North and South who hold tickets are advised to call tomorrow (today) with their tickets or call us on 20200 for further information for their travelling arrangements,” Pio said.

The Air Vanuatu international flight to Sydney had to make a stop-over at New Caledonia’s Tontouta International Airport for extra fuel to enable the national flag carrier to make it to Sydney.

With all Air Vanuatu domestic flights postponed, passengers were seen crowded at the domestic departure lounge and at Baurfield International Airport until the strike ended.

While the strike was on an urgent meeting was held yesterday morning between the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU), Pacific Petroleum Representatives and the Labour Department.

According to Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU) representative, Jean Pascal Saltukro, the meeting was to discuss and seek decision for an arbitration board to be set up to deal with the issue at hand and also for a Collective Bargaining approach as a way forward for future negotiations between the two parties.

However, the Department of Labour told the Daily Post that on Friday last week, the Minister responsible for Labour signed and issued an order in accordance with powers conferred upon him under section 5 (34) of the Trade Dispute Act (CAP 162) to discontinue any industrial actions and that the minister will make known the decision in the next few days after consultations with the State Law Office, of the strike action, of yesterday.

The fuel stations in and around Port Vila were closed down yesterday morning as soon as the strike began at 6am while only two remained opened that saw a long cue of vehicles.

Last month the Pacific Petroleum Company Employees staged a 5-hour strike which ended with an agreement between all parties concerned, with the understanding that the employer- Pacific Petroleum Company, would meet the employees’ long standing grievances.

According to the employees, the deadline of the agreement lapsed last week without solutions they expected which resulted in yesterday’s 6-hour strike. However, after an urgent meeting two agreements were reached, first an arbitration board is to be appointed by the Minister for Labour to deal with the employees’ outstanding grievances, and secondly a Collective Bargaining Agreement as a way forward to deal with employees’ grievances between both parties in future.

Following the agreement reached yesterday, all company employees in Port Vila and Luganville, Santo, returned to work as the services also returned to normal.

“We feel disrespected to be ignored and continue to have our grievances shelved for years,” the Union Members voiced.

They once again called on the Government and its agencies as well as the national leaders including Members of Parliament (MPs) to seriously consider their plight and come up with satisfactory solutions for the issues at hand and long term solutions that will be beneficial to both the employees and the employer as well as for the government and the nation and the people as a whole, they say.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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