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Ongoing union strikes disrupt more domestic flights in New Caledonia

Tuesday 16 August 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in New Caledonia, Regional

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Ongoing union strikes disrupt more domestic flights in New Caledonia
Photo: Facebook

Domestic flights have been cancelled again in New Caledonia as a conflict between Air Caledonie and the workers' union continues.

The carrier decided to cancel all flights on Monday after last week's disruptions and strikes over the status of a co-pilot. Some flights on Tuesday are also affected.

A meeting took place on Monday between the government, the province of the Loyalty islands, the USTKE union and Air Caledonia to come up with a solution.

The territory government said that "the two institutions are given until August 20 at the latest to find a solution. While waiting, the USTKE has decided to suspend immediately the strike."

The co-pilot Chrystelle Cejo is reported to have had training gaps because of problems caused by the pandemic, which resulted in the company Air Caledonie suspending her contract without renewal according to the Union.

A release from the Union explains the company a commander who has now become instructor has communicated negative comments to other training instructors on the Chrystelles flying capabilities.

On the last stage of her flight training, the instructor accorded Chrystelle one more month until the last test flight to which he cancelled last minute and fired her.

The union of Kanak workers UTSKE insist she be allowed to resume work and a renewal of her contract immediately.

Image of a young kanak women training to be pilot.
Photo: Facebook

A former pilot of Air Caledonie Ronald Urene told la premiere he does not understand why the criteria was so harsh on the Kanak pilot.

"There are some pilots that have done only four to five months of training, and to take the pilot that has done 12 months and regard that as only six months of training - that is what is annoying us and I consider that discrimination."

However, Air Caledonie's CEO Samuel Hnepeune told la premiere the decision to ground the pilot is fair because she did not have enough training.

"For me, it's sufficient information and everybody is convinced.

"An instructor evaluates the level, and the person comes back after the test and fills the gaps of their training. That's easy done, but instead the union is demanding an immediate reintegration of the co-pilot."

Aircal said in its release that even though "the pilot with a lot of flying experience has not attained the the level of expertise required to fly."

In a tweet La Premiere said "According to the government of New Caledonia an 'exit solution' is being considered and the USTKE has suspended its strike."

An unnamed union member told la premiere that "the pilot did not get the same treatment as other pilots".

"The company invented a standard of training as she was getting formed which is very unfair on her."

Since August 4, Air Caledonie has been affected by the industrial action leaving more than 1400 people unable to travel to the Loyalty Islands.

A national football league match in Magenta between Tiga and Kunié has been cancelled due to the strikes.