The union reported long working hours for garment workers

The union reported long working hours for garment workers

Unions have called on the Mauritian government to raise the minimum wage in the garment sector and put a mechanism in place to enforce freedom of association and collective bargaining in the country.

IndustriALL Global Union leaders and workers met in Mauritius last week to take part in a joint workshop with German political foundation FES to discuss the country's garment industry supply chain.

The union highlighted issues such as long working hours for garment workers, who it said are on the lowest minimum wage in the country, often working an obligatory overtime of ten hours per week.

Participants also pointed to the difference in treatment between local and migrant workers, which IndustriALL said is illegal under national legislation.

"Most textile and garment factories are located in the country's Export Processing Zone, where trade unions do not have access to the plant to organise workers. Hence less than 5% of the 60,000 workers are unionised," the union noted.

Mauritius produces garments for export to South Africa and the US, which account for 24% and 18% of exports, respectively. The EU, however, is its largest export destination, which accounts for around 48% of exports.

The country has ratified the International Labour Organization’s Convention number 87 on the right to freedom of association and organise, but IndustriALL says this has not yet been implemented.

Attendees at last week's meeting concluded that the law needs amending to force freedom of association in export processing zones.

Speaking with Mauritius' new Minister of Labour, Soodesh Satkam Callichurn, participants requested that the minimum wage in the garment sector be raised, and that a mechanism is put in place to enforce freedom of association and collective bargaining in the country. They also called for the harmonising of working conditions between local and migrant workers.

"Mauritius was among the pioneers in the garment industry, long before fast fashion changed the face of the sector, and long before export processing zones were established to attract investors from around the world," IndustriALL said. "It has adapted to the changing dynamism of the garment sector through investing in the latest textile and garment technology, establishing fashion and design schools, and maintaining cheap labour through migrant workers."

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