Eight people on hunger strike in Mauritius shone a light on the starvation wages earned by cleaners of public schools in the country. Backed by massive local and international support, the union has managed to secure permanent employment for the workers in question.
Fighting precarious work is a priority for Mauritian union confederation Confédération des Travailleurs du Secteur Publique et Privé (CTSP), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.
Among the country’s poorest workers are cleaners working in public schools. The government began outsourcing these jobs in 2006 to contractors paying the mostly women workers less than US$1.50 a day, imprisoning them in extreme poverty on earnings of just US$42 a month.
The CTSP reached an agreement with the government in August this year, making everyone working for contractors in public schools permanent employees.
However, on 13 October the government backed out of the agreement, resulting in disappointment and frustration among the 333 women workers that would have benefited from the agreement. This prompted CTSP’s President, Reeaz Chutto, and General Secretary, Jane Ragoo, as well as six women cleaners to start a hunger strike on 16 October to raise awareness and gain public support.
Lasting ten grueling days, the hunger strike was called to an end when the government conceded, and an agreement was reached where women cleaners will be paid a full month package and get permanent contracts with no breaks in their employment.
The strike has been massively supported in Mauritius by citizens, churches and even other employers. CTSP says that the victory was made possible through local as well as international support:
“Thank you to every single person who suffered with us during those ten long days of struggle. We have brought the issue of government contractors making huge profits by exploiting vulnerable workers into the national spotlight. We are committed to achieving the amendments to the labour legislation from the momentum that has been created.”