3 March, 2022The official opening of the Migrant Resource Centre is a testimony that collective efforts are critical to eliminating modern slavery and promote decent working conditions in the garment factories.
IndustriALL Global Union, online clothing brand ASOS, Anti-slavery International, and the Confederation des Travailleurs des secteurs Publique et Prive (CTSP) teamed up to establish the resource centre to protect workers and human rights of migrant workers against modern slavery that includes bonded labour, debt bondage, and debt slavery.
Speakers at the official opening event on 8 February said the partnership strengthened the cooperation between brands and unions. Further, the centre complemented the CTSP, which is affiliated to IndustriALL, in its on-going campaigns to stop the migrant workers’ rights violations.
ASOS, which sources garments from RT Knits, Tropic Knits, CMT, Denim De L’ile and Star Knitwear factories that employ thousands of migrant and local workers, says it is committed to responsible sourcing. As well as providing ongoing support for the Migrant Resource Centre, the online fashion destination, which has a Global Framework Agreement in place with IndustriALL, has developed a mobile app that provides information and education on workers’ rights for migrant workers in Mauritius.
According to CTSP, most of the 50,000 strong migrant workers across Mauritius are at risk of being paid poverty wages that are below the country’s minimum wages of 10575 rupees (US$246) for non-export enterprises. This often comes as a shock to the workers and dampens their expectations. Worse still, as most of them will be paying back agency fees for the journey from their home countries often at inflated interests’ rates.
The journey for migrant workers who end up in the factories of the island begins in countries thousands of miles away – in Bangladesh, Nepal, India or even China – as well as nearby Madagascar. But the journey does not always deliver the promised decent jobs and wages.
Some employers violate workers and human rights that are protected by the country’s constitution and the Workers’ Rights Act among other laws. Further, the migrant workers have limited access to health care. Health and safety conditions are ignored, with some workers getting injured at work while squalid conditions in workers dormitories are common.
The CTSP runs the resource centre. For example, awareness raising sessions for migrant workers are held on Sundays -- the only day that most migrant workers are off. The union says the awareness campaigns are also part of social events for migrant workers.
Reeaz Chooto, CTSP president says:
“The resource centre is making the following demands: that migrant workers should come to Mauritius without having to pay any agent fees and wants a one-stop shop to be set up for migrant workers by the government. This will facilitate fair contracts with decent wages, access to public health facilities, health and safety at workplaces, provision of decent accommodation, and the involvement of migrant workers in collective bargaining.”
Further, the centre wants repatriation to be done in a fair manner that protects the rights of migrant workers. The law should also provide for emergency repatriation. Repatriations must also be cleared by the government to avoid situations where workers are sent back to their home countries before the conclusion of labour disputes.
For example, the labour laws should specify the time upon which the employer should repatriate workers after the expiry of their contracts to avoid situations where workers are stranded in the country without jobs, food, and accommodation. The centre is proposing that a refugee centre be set up for workers who would have been physically assaulted or become homeless.
“We are incredibly proud to be standing with our critical friend Anti-Slavery International, the team at CTSP and migrant workers in Mauritius to officially open the Migrant Resource Centre.
"Since the Centre was established over two years ago it has helped migrant workers on the ground in Mauritius better understand and realise their fundamental human rights and has been instrumental in directly resolving grievances and holding employers to account,”
says Simon Platts, ASOS responsible sourcing director.
“We would like to congratulate ASOS and CTSP for championing the rights of migrant workers through this partnership. Hopefully, the resource centre will bring about decent working conditions,”
says Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriALL textile and garment director.