Migrant workers in Mauritius

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

Posts Tagged ‘General Workers Federation

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Contrary to what their name suggests the conditions we saw at two of Trend Clothing’s dormitories were outdated.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

l’Express yourself

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On Friday the 1st of July we had a one-page article in l’express weekly. Although the journalist changed our article slightly, we are happy to reach out to the entire country this way. The original article can be found here.

Written by Maria Louise

July 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

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