Government must take Wednesday’s strike action by workers of Pacific Petroleum that paralyzed parts of the aviation sector and threatened massive disruption to the economy of the country as a wake-up call for all leaders including Members of Parliament with both Government and the Opposition, a union leader representing the workers who are members of the Vanuatu National Workers Union (VNWU) warns.

Jean-Pascal Saltukro, organizer of tourism and other sectors within the VNWU tells 96 BuzzFM’s Vanuatu Nightly News host, Kizzy Kalsakau: “Government and our MPs must take Wednesday’s action as a wake-up call that workers’ rights are being violated in this country and these must be properly addressed in order to stop such actions from happening in future.

“We are now slaves in our own country.

“What will happen to our children in future if governments and leaders turn a blind eye to workers’ rights?” he asked.

“So, I want to say to MPs in government and the opposition that they have to wake up because we do not want to go down the road where we have many workers in the streets creating problems. Workers need to have fair wages, fair benefits for the jobs they do and the responsibilities they bear,” Saltukro said.

“We are no longer slaves, we are in an independent country and we have to have what is our right to have for the work we do.”

He appealed to workers at other sectors to join the Vanuatu National Workers Union because he said he believes “it is the only avenue for addressing issues that are affecting workers at the moment”, adding “because standing alone can allow employers to mistreat you.”

The strike by the workers caused three stations belonging to Pacific Petroleum, the main supplier of petroleum fuel througout Vanuatu, in Port Vila – at Tebakor, Centre Point and D-Dock to close.

Saltukro says the Director of Civil Aviation was informed once the action started and “explained the situation to him so he can understand what was really happening so that the customers won’t be upset about what was going on”.

“We later agreed after these contacts with him that the workers must resume at 2.30pm in the afternoon so flights can start operating.”

There were flights cancelled and others delayed and only two flights operated according to the Civil Aviation Authorities, but all other flights were cancelled.

It’s understood that ships that were supposed to department Port Vila Wednesday delayed their departures because of the industrial action.

After a meeting with the Commissioner of Police and the Commissioner of Labor an agreement was reached was for all workers of Pacific Petroleum who were engaged in the five-hour strike to resume duties without any disciplinary action.

They agreed that there would be a meeting Thursday at 2.30pm to discuss the outstanding claims still owed to the workers by Pacific Petroleum and also to discuss the case of the terminated staff union leader at the Pacific Petroleum. At the time of going to press the Daily Post was not able to get the results of the meeting.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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