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Mauritian unions mobilize against increasing casualization of labor in the private sector

18 March, 2013In Mauritius, new employment legislation adopted in 2009 led to deregulation of the labor market and a massive expansion of contract work.

IndustriALL affiliate the CMCTEU (Chemical Manufacturing and Connected Trades Employees Union) has launched a campaign to recruit precarious workers in all manufacturing sectors. Within two years the union has managed to triple its membership by recruiting 3,000 contract workers. The CMCTEU and the CTSP (Workers Confederation of Private Sector) have become key players in Mauritian social dialogue.

We have developed creative strategies to organize precarious workers in order to be more representative and bargain effectively. Yet the battle is not over. Our torturers are actively organizing against us. Our success lies in our capacity to organize workers.

Reeaz Chutto, CMCTEU

In 2010, the CMCTEU amended its status in order to be able to recruit contract workers who represent the majority of private sector employees. The union, which has participated in the IndustriALL precarious work project since 2009, has developed innovative initiatives to overcome casual workers’ fear of joining a union. Fifteen volunteers were trained to go to workplaces and approach precarious workers who began to discretely contact the union to get more information. The CMCTEU meets with them during the weekends and has developed specific services. Two new staff members have been employed to mainly deal with precarious workers’ issues. The membership fee for precarious workers has been set at a symbolic 1 Rupee (instead of 50 Rupees). The union has also created community banking services, accessible to contract workers and their families. Free computer training is also offered to precarious workers.

The CMCTEU denounces particularly the feminization of precarious work in Mauritius. Precarious work is more prevalent in sectors such as the textile industry where female labor predominates. Therefore the CMCTEU have trained many female union leaders to respond adequately to the needs of women precarious workers. To date, 24 per cent of union members are women. The union also works with foreign workers who account for more than 35,000 of workers in Mauritius on precarious contracts, without social protection.

The increase in the number of union members and its ability to mobilize thousands of workers to demonstrate in the street has considerably strengthened the CMCTEU’s bargaining power. Since October 2011, no less than 15 collective agreements have been signed by the CMCTEU and its sister unions also affiliated to the CTSP, securing equal pay for contract workers doing similar work to permanent workers. One of the main preoccupations of the CMCTEU has been the health and safety of precarious workers who represent the majority of the victims of work accidents in the manufacturing sectors. In 2011, the union secured an agreement with several employers stipulating that workers with 12 months or less of service should not be exposed to very hazardous work, unless trained by a competent person.

Their increased strength has helped the CMCTEU and the CTSP to achieve positive results not only for precarious workers. In December 2012, thanks to an important mobilization, trade unions succeeded in postponing the adoption of a government proposal to further deregulate the labor market and undermine the power of unions. The fight continues. Major mobilizations are planned in March against the “anti-worker laws” in Mauritius.