General strike against compulsory vaccination extends to French Polynesia

A largely majority inter-union began Wednesday, November 24 in French Polynesia a general strike against the vaccine obligation and for the establishment of anti-Covid social measures, a movement more followed in the private sector than in the public service. The movement mobilizes little in the public service: less than 1% of Polynesian education and administration employees have gone on strike.

It is followed more in companies that present internal claims. For example, the telephone operator Vini had 38% of strikers on Wednesday. Domestic air traffic is disrupted by the strike of the airport firefighters: no plane, for example, has been able to land or take off from the island of Raiatea.

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Less than 58% of Polynesians vaccinated

Four local unions – out of the five in French Polynesia – contest the law on compulsory vaccination, voted in August by the Assembly of French Polynesia. All Polynesians who exercise a profession in contact with the public must be vaccinated on December 23.

Less than 58% of Polynesians are vaccinated, despite a strong wave of the Delta variant in August and September, which killed more than 500 people out of 280,000 inhabitants. The Polynesian President, Edouard Fritch, is willing to reduce the fine incurred by the unvaccinated, but not to reverse this law: “My duty is to protect the population and therefore to maintain the vaccine obligation”, he said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The unions also want a 4% increase in the minimum wage. The government has said it is ready to increase it by 2% and by one point more in a few months. The gross minimum wage is 1,281 euros in Polynesia, where the cost of living is higher than in mainland France.

“The Covid-19 will still be circulating in ten years”

Employee assistance fund

The inter-union is also calling for the creation of a fund to help employees who have lost their jobs, because there is no unemployment fund in this autonomous overseas community.

The striking unions also reject the reform of the governance of the CPS, the local social security, in chronic deficit. The government wishes to be better represented there, to the detriment of employers and unions. The difficulties of CPS, aggravated by the Covid-19 health crisis, threaten the entire health system, but also the pensions of Polynesians.

Edouard Fritch regretted the breakdown of negotiations by the unions after five days of negotiations. “They didn’t even say goodnight to us, they got up, they broke”, he said.

But the trade unionists, on the contrary, considered that the president had not satisfied any of their points of demands: “He explained at length that he wanted to maintain the vaccination obligation and not overpay the minimum wage”, regretted Patrick Galenon, general secretary of the CSTP-FO, the first local union.

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Frédéric Dock, the president of the first Polynesian employers’ organization, considered that this strike movement was “Irresponsible” and fell “At the worst time” for the Polynesian economy. Negotiations had not resumed Wednesday evening (this Thursday morning) in Polynesia.

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