Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August 2014, 14:59 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Mauritius

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Mauritius, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd889372d.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 1,300,000
Capital: Port Louis

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Arrests: 9

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Government figures showed an alarmingly high rate of dismissals of trade union representatives. Trade unions protested after a blatant failure to consult them over reforms in the sugar industry that would impact on jobs, and nine trade unionists were arrested for a peaceful demonstration outside parliament. The employers refused to sign the ILO's Decent Work Country Programme.

Background

Mauritius is one of Africa's most economically stable countries, although there were fears that ongoing water shortages could impact its tourism industry. In July, six Militant Socialist Movement ministers left the government in protest at the arrest of the health minister on corruption charges.

Trade union rights in law

The 2008 Employment Relations Act includes measures to promote collective bargaining, and also recognises the right to bargain at the sectoral level. However, many restrictions apply to the right to strike. To call a strike, a complex conciliation and mediation procedure must be exhausted, which can last up to two months in total. Both the requirement regarding the voting system and the necessary quorum in a strike ballot are excessive, and unions can not call a strike concerning general economic policy issues.

Furthermore, all demonstrations are prohibited during the sittings of the Parliamentary Assembly, as are all strikes at the national level. Even when a lawful strike is organised, the Prime Minister can request the Supreme Court to prohibit it and refer the dispute to arbitration. A minimum service must be established in far too many sectors.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Migrant workers: Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to trade union rights' violations. When these workers go on strike, the coordinated response of the employers and the authorities is often to send them back to their country of origin on the grounds of "breach of contract" and "illegal strike". Many migrants are employed on short-term contracts, particularly in the sugar plantations and textile industry, and in practice they cannot organise. The working conditions of Bangladeshi migrants in Mauritius have been described as being akin to modern slavery. The ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has asked the government to indicate the measures taken to guarantee migrant workers their trade union rights, both in law and in practice.

Export processing zones: Employers in the export processing zones (EPZs) remain hostile to the unions, who find it very difficult to approach the workers given that, in most cases, trade unionists are denied access to the industrial sites. As a result, union membership levels in the EPZs are below 12%. The ILO has consistently highlighted the need for greater protection against acts of interference by employers and employer organisations in the activities of trade unions and the need for rapid appeals procedures and sufficiently dissuasive sanctions in this regard. The ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has urged the government to take measures for the promotion of collective bargaining in all areas of economic activity.

Decent Work – Employers' federation refuses to sign Decent Work Country Programme: In October 2011, the Labour Minister called on the ILO to intervene after the Mauritius Employers' Federation (MEF) refused to sign the Decent Work Country Programme, despite being closely involved in the negotiations to develop it. These programmes, that form the basis of ILO assistance to the country and aim to promote decent work are based on tripartism, hence the employers are an essential partner in the process. The Minister believed the MEF was withholding its signature as a means of putting pressure on him over a bargaining dispute involving the la Mauritius Sugar Producers Association (MSPA).

High level of dismissals of union representatives in the private sector:

The Federation of United Workers (Féderation des Travailleurs Unis – FTU) held a demonstration outside the Labour Ministry on 23 September to protest at what its General Secretary Atma Shanto described as an "alarming" rate of dismissals of trade union representatives in the private sector. Figures released by the Ministry showed that 8,000 trade union representatives had been dismissed between 2008 and 2011.

The trade union presence in the private sector has steadily dwindled, leaving only the sugar industry with structured unions and active grass roots militants. Even the sugar industry unions may be at risk. Under the Employment Relations Act, employers can withdraw recognition from any union that represents less than 30% of the workforce – some unions in the sugar industry do not meet this target.

Violations

Government ignores unions in sugar industry reforms: In September, the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC), the Service Providing Institutions of the Sugar Sector (SPISS), the Mauritius Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and the Mauritius Labour Congress joined forces to hold a protest demonstration following the government's failure to consult them over reforms in the sugar industry. The government had decided to cut funding to the parastatal bodies providing services in the sector and many feared for their jobs. The unions had requested dialogue, but their letters had remained unanswered.

Nine unionists arrested: Atma Shanto, General Secretary, and eight other members of the United Workers Federation (Fédération des Travailleurs Unis – FTU) were arrested by police on 14 November after they had staged a peaceful demonstration in front of the National Assembly. According to the law, no demonstrations are allowed in front of Government House when Parliament is in session. They were arrested under Section 8 of the "Public Gathering Act," but the police later had to change the charges as the Act is applicable only when at least 12 people are involved. Instead they brought charges of obstructing access to parliament. The FTU in its turn brought a formal complaint against the police for breach of their freedom of assembly, expression and movement. The protest was about the mistreatment of workers at the "La Plantation" hotel.

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