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Caledonian protest called ‘racist’ October 5, 2006

Posted by C.A.R.D in Card, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Discrimination, Racism, Racist, Workers.

MALACAÑANG yesterday slammed the New Caledonians demanding that the Filipino workers employed in the South Pacific island nation be sent home, claiming they were depriving the locals of high-paying jobs.

“We believe they’re being unfair,” Presidential chief-of-staff Michael Defensor said.

“If they don’t want our workers, then they can wait until their contracts are terminated. But to collectively pull out our workers is unfair and smacks of racism.”

On Thursday, about 500 New Caledonians marched on the capital Noumea demanding that the Filipinos be expelled.

“We have to kick out the Filipinos,” said Sylvain Nea, secretary-general of the Federation of New Caledonian Workers Union.

He made the statement even as the group’s marchers blocked the headquarters of Goro Nickel, a subsidiary of the Canadian mining group Inco.

Anger has grown over the Filipino workers, who are building Goro Nickel’s metal-working factory in the south of the French territory.

Building at the site has slowed with the return to Noumea of more than a third of the 2,800 New Caledonians who used to work there.

The union’s demands have been described as “unrealistic” by Didier Leroux, the government’s chief economist.

Radio New Zealand quoted the president of the territorial government, Marie Noelle Themerau, as saying the Filipinos would stay as their departure would imperil not only the Goro project, the biggest in New Caledonia in decades, but also another one planned for the north.

Defensor said Filipinos were in demand in New Caledonia because they were highly skilled.

“These people rallying against our workers are just sour-graping because they have been outskilled,” he said.

In April, the Department of Foreign Affairs said more than 3,000 Filipinos would be sent to New Caledonia to build Goro’s $2-billion nickel and cobalt processing plant.

It said the Filipinos would be shipped to that country in batches until 2007, and that they would work for EEI and AG&P, two Philippine-based construction firms that had partnered with Inco.

Inco, one of the biggest mining firms in the world, had specifically asked for an all-Filipino contingent to build the mining plant, Therese Lazaro, Philippine Consul General in Sydney, Australia, said in April.

Source: Manila Standard Today

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