Migrant workers in Mauritius

Forced to stay on what turned out not to be the paradise island.

Archive for the ‘Dormitory inspection’ Category

How Trend Clothing Ltd. adds to the trend

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29 Bangladeshi workers add to the trend of inhumane living conditions.     

Contrary to what their name suggests the conditions we saw at two of Trend Clothing’s dormitories were outdated.

On the first visit of Sunday 10th Jeppe was greeted with an atmosphere of desperation. Payslips were thrust, testimonies given and cries of help were banded about the chaotic kitchen by the 19 inhabitants. The hourly rate of just Rs 15.50 (£0.336) is even less than the previous number of Rs 16.57 (£0.337) bringing the record to a new low and allowing for a monthly salary of between Rs 3500 – 5000 (£75.8 – £108.2) depending on overtime. One woman even told us that of the 43 hours overtime she worked, she was paid for only 32.  Additionally some of the female workers reported that they had not received any salary for the last three months.  A case was opened by the Labour Office in Rose Hill last week under trade union GWF (General Workers Federation) on this issue.

Afterwards the workers took Jeppe for a tour around their dormitory showing several holes in the ceiling and signs of water damage next to the electrical sockets. The risk that the electric wires might catch fire is very great indeed, something which a few workers had tried to minimise by using plastic bags and cartons to plug the holes. We finished the tour with a glance at the one bathroom and toilet facility whose ceiling was rotten.

The next day Annie and Maria Louise encountered similarly de-humanising conditions with their visit to the dormitory upstairs housing 10 Bangladeshi workers. We were shocked to find the bathroom, toilet, washing machine and cooking facilities all crammed into a room of around 12 to 14 square metres, although at least they had been given the luxury of a fridge-freezer. Compared to the first dormitory the general conditions of the rooms were acceptable with roughly two people sharing although there was still a lack of communal living space for the workers to use during their valuable free leisure time.

This account of our visit is aimed at improving the experiences of those few individuals suffering from the sub-standard conditions witnessed. We hope the complaint at the Labour Office will help with this as well.

Panoramic view of the two dormitories and the neighbour, showing the contrast.


Health-threatening electrical system and water leakages.


Toilet, shower and washing machine in the kitchen.


The kitchen.


The outside of the first dormitory, with electrical chords hanging loosely from the roof.

Modern Day Slavery

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What sounds like a sweet company is engaged in some sour business – migrant workers from Nepal forced to stay with Candytex, St. Pierre, Mauritius.

11 months; this is how long it took nine migrant workers from Nepal to realise that Mauritius is not the place for them, due to their working and living conditions.

Together with trade unionist Veena Dholah of General Workers Federation (GWF) we enter into a big factory room; a group of twelve migrant workers from Nepal greet us. They entered Mauritius a year ago, with the hope of providing for their families back home. Ramesh, who worked in the Saudi Arabian textile industry for 8 years, tells us how he enjoyed better working- and living conditions there – a statement that was quite shocking to us. When inspecting the dormitory we understand why.


Ramesh with his passport. 

The dormitory is found on the third floor of the factory building. It looks like an old production space, which now hosts 34 migrant workers from Nepal. There are bunk beds lined up along the walls, separated by hanging blankets and sheets. In the middle of the room there is a small television set, overlooking the open kitchen space and toilet. Imagined being hired as a cooker for 33 people, out of which 31 are machinists, and you neither have a fridge nor a table for preparation. The potatoes are spread around on the concrete floor, and there is no real storage space for the food. There is no water connection in the kitchen, and the one in the bathroom is not functioning. This means they have to carry the water from the ground floor to the third floor – totally unacceptable. The smell from the toilets is horrible, as there is no running water to flush the toilets. Isn’t this a big threat to their well-being? As if this is not enough, they also feel mistreated doing work for the boss’ wife, who is constantly harassing them. The boss is never there.


A health-threatening toilet, with a non-functioning water supply.

 

Ramesh has two children living in Nepal, his 15-year-old daughter Thara and 12-year-old son Rajesh. He phones them once in a while, but it is extremely expensive. It cost him 24,000 Rs (£527) to leave his family, money he had to borrow. His contract is being kept downstairs by the company, which he does not have a copy of, even though this is illegal. He is lucky to have his passport, which is not normally the case. So technically he is free to go back home to his family, but being paid 16,57 Rs (£o,36) an hour, he can not afford the 17,000 Rs (£373) a flight ticket would cost. Ramesh has contacted Nepal’s high commissioner in Mauritius, but he refused to help. He has also contacted the Nepali recruitment agent, Jyoti, regarding the conditions, without any luck. The agent has simply cut him off. What seems even more suspicious is the fact that Ramesh was made to sign his contract in a hotel in New Delhi, a third-part country, caught in between his home and his destination.


The kitchen.

The 9th of June eight of the workers wrote a letter to their boss, giving their employer a one-month notice. They have had enough! We are told that other workers are suffering the same way, namely 65 workers from Madagascar experiencing equally bad conditions. So far 40 have left. Furthermore there are currently 26 workers from Bangladesh, however the initial number remains unknown.


Maria Louise, Jeppe and the workers who want to return to their families in Nepal.

Since September 2010 the workers have not received a meal allowance, and the salary, which has decreased from 5600 (£123) to 5036 Rs (£110)a month, does not cover much. “Even if we are paid 10,000 Rs a month, we will not stay,” he tells us. All this has been really shocking to us; it reminds us of modern day slavery.


Hand-written notice to their boss.

Written by Maria Louise

July 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

Imagine…

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Imagine that this is your kitchen…

And this is your livingroom.

We went to inspect the dormitories of 34 migrant workers from Nepal. Get l’Express tomorrow to read about what we found in the middle of St. Pierre!

 

 

 

 

Written by Maria Louise

June 30, 2011 at 11:22 am

A Road of Shame

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Inhumane conditions along the Royal Road, Beau Bassin!

Many Mauritians commute on the Royal Road between Port-Louis and Rose Hill on a daily basis. Stuck in traffic you could wonder what they are thinking about. A thought that probably rarely crosses their minds is what can be found behind some of the façades along the road. Amnesty International Mauritius Section went to discover.

June 19 2011, Amnesty International Mauritius Section, together with trade unionist Fayzal Ally Beegun, went to inspect dormitories for migrant workers in Coromandel, Chebel and Beau Bassin. The sights visited were dormitories of Universal Fabrics Ltd. and Esquel Group. In the over-crowded dormitories we found migrant workers from India, China and Madagascar.

The first dormitory in Coromandel, located just behind the Royal Road, is hosting 37 Indian migrant workers working for Universal Fabrics Ltd. Some of the workers are sleeping on thin rotten mattresses; two of them do not have a mattress but are sleeping directly on the wooden bottom of the bunk bed. Each worker is given 1000 Rs (£22) a month for food, and a cooker is hired to cater for them in what is a very filthy kitchen. When asked whether they have their passport and worker permit, the classical answer comes up. The employer keeps them safe in the factory, which is a clear violation of Mauritian law. The bathroom and toilet facilities are disgusting. None of the workers are interested in going on the record in fear of being deported, though they did show us their payslips; they are paid 19 Rs (£0.42) an hour.


The door-less entrance and the home of a Chinese Migrant worker: 1 x 1 x 1,80 meters.

The second dormitory, where workers for Universal Fabrics Ltd. live, is found directly on the main road, entering by a really unsafe spiral staircase. Here conditions are even worse than at the first dormitory. Living here are 28 Indian migrant workers, mainly from Tamil Nadu. Especially one room attracts attention. The room used to be occupied by more workers, but due to a leaking toilet system, sanitation water is leaking into the room. There is a horrible smell in the room – inhumane conditions. The workers explain that when complaining they receive no response from the management. Additionally, they tell us that when it is raining water leaks though the ceiling and the electrical installations in the ceiling sparks and burns the ceiling! Dark spots are seen all over. We find out that there is another entrance to the dormitory, found on the ground floor. Actually, this door, facing the side road, is broken allowing you to walk directly into the dormitory. One can wonder whether the employer cares for their employee’s safety at all.

We went visiting the two dormitories of Esquel Group, which is hosting migrant workers from China and Madagascar. Conditions here are even worse, and it seems as if it is escalating. The conditions are ‘creative’, using a positive word, and it is impressive how they manage to fit so many people into one room. The rooms inspected at the Chinese dormitory had an average of 10 to 14 people living in rooms between the size of 20-25 square meters, accompanied with one bathroom and one toilet. As for the Malagasy dormitory there are 70 and 60 young women living on each floor, all living under inhumane conditions.

Esquel Group’s five E’s – is there a sixth one missing?

As a big multinational national company, Esquel Group represents its internal and external strategy in what they call an “e-culture”. This is represented by the five words ethics, environment, exploration, excellence and education. This sounds very humane and decent, but you could question whether the well-paid bosses or marketing directors have ever seen the dormitories of some their own workers. I would suggest that they look up “exploitation” in the dictionary, take the word for what it is and go visit the dormitories of their own workers. Probably that would make them reconsider the choices of ethics and environment, and substitute it with exploitation. It would also be useful to flip back a couple of pages and look under “d” and search for “dignity”.

As a costumer you should take expatriate Graham Parley’s, Director of Manufacturing for the Esquel Group in Mauritius, words into consideration:  “If you purchase a 100% cotton shirt in the USA or Europe from brands such as Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike, Lands End, JC Penney, Marks & Spencer, and Nordstrom, then there is a very good chance it was manufactured and supplied by Esquel.”(1) When buying apparel from one of these brands, you are likely to be supporting a business that has big difficulties living up to the high standards they put on paper. Think about that the next time you go shopping, please.

(1) http://mauritius-expatriate.blogspot.com/2009/06/expatriate-in-mauritius_09.html