Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritius

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Mauritius, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661f52d.html [accessed 23 July 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 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Migrant workers still have no trade union rights in practice and employers in the export processing zones (EPZ) and other private sector companies remain broadly anti-union. The broadcasting corporation suspended a trade union leader on dubious grounds. The right to strike is seriously circumscribed.

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.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: The country remained politically stable and the economy continued to grow. The ruling Social Alliance, led by Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam of the Labour Party, was re-elected in a closely fought vote in 2010, defeating the Mauritian Militant Movement led by Mr Berenger.

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 frequently 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.

Trade unions weak in the private sector: 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.

Union leader suspended: The Mauritius Broadcasting Company (MBC) suspended the President of the Mauritius Broadcasting Staff Association (MBSA ), Mrs. Reehana Ameer, without pay in August, pending her appearance before a disciplinary committee. She was accused of being the author of an anonymous letter that was considered a highly defamatory criticism of the company. Such letters are apparently relatively common practice among disgruntled employees who do not use official channels for fear of victimisation. The Director of MBC set up an internal investigation, not into the accusations made in the letter, but to determine the author. The investigation concluded that Mrs. Ameer was the person responsible.

The names of those questioned in the investigation were kept secret and although MBC lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Labour, it chose not to disclose the contents of the letter. The MBSA countered that Mrs. Ameer was the person responsible for taking up grievances through official channels and had no need for anonymous letters. It believed the real reason behind the suspension was her role as president of the staff association and called for her to have a fair hearing.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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