Two union leaders and five cleaners are on hunger strike against poverty pay at Mauritian schools.
Low wages of US $43 per month and casual employment through contractors for 333 women cleaners at Mauritian government-run primary and secondary schools prompted the Confédération des Travailleurs du Secteur Publique et Privé (CTSP) president Reeaz Chutto and general secretary, Jane Ragoo, and five women cleaners to start a hunger strike on 13 October.
The confederation, which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, took this drastic action when it felt that its demands for higher wages made in the last five years were being ignored. Demonstrations and strikes by the union did not lead to wage increases.
Despite meetings with the finance and labour ministries, which the union felt were a breakthrough, the cleaners continued to be paid less than US $2 per day, and therefore did not have enough money to support their families. Yet the government was increasing the wages of the teachers, thus discriminating against the cleaners. Taking this into account, unions doubted government’s commitment to increase wages as announced in its minimum wage policy that was meant to benefit lowly paid workers.
CTSP hopes that Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun, the Minister of Education and Human Resources, Tertiary Education and Scientific Research, will meet with the unions after the setting up of a solidarity committee to support the hunger strike.
Ragoo, who is also an executive committee member of IndustriALL, said:
“We do not understand why the minister is not interested in ending the exploitation of the women cleaners. We are yet to hear from the government, but a support committee of trade unions and opposition political parties has been set up to meet with the minister of education on 20 October, and hopefully the government will agree to our demands”.
IndustriALL general secretary Valter Sanches has written to the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravin Jugnauth. He said:
"Numerous attempts to address the matter with several government ministers have not received the attention required to address this unsustainable situation for workers that deserve a living wage.
Therefore, IndustriALL Global Union urges you to intervene immediately to resolve the situation before the health and welfare of our comrades are further compromised."
Fabian Nkomo, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa added:
“We always expect governments to lead by example in our campaign for living wages. This explains our frustrations and disappointment when governments become the offending employers. We support an immediate resolution to this dispute for the sake of our comrades.”
In the meantime, the hunger strike continues.
Trade unionists in other countries have pledged to join them for a 24 hour hunger strike in solidarity. Join them!