Migrant workers in Mauritius

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

Posts Tagged ‘inspection

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Contrary to what their name suggests the conditions we saw at two of Trend Clothing’s dormitories were outdated.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

Reply to the parliamentary debate

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Tuesday 6th of July Mrs L. Ribot raised the parliamentary question No. B/638 with the title United Fabrics Ltd. & Esquel Group – Foreign Workers. The parliamentary question (PQ) was based on the article A Road of Shame, posted on our blog. The participants in the debate was Mrs L. Ribot , Minister of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Mr Shakeel Mohamed, Leader of the Opposition Mr. Bérenger, Mr Fakeemeeah, Mr. Obeegadoo and Mr. Uteem. Mr Mohamed comes across as aggressive during the debate, and we feel like we need to make some things clear.

First of all, it has never been our intention to attack the ministry or the government, and it is not our interest either to criticise Mauritius. Our critique should rather be seen as a critique of the multinational companies exploiting migrant workers, which is happening all over the world.

Mr Mohamed starts replying the PQ:

There is no preliminary report yet; all that has been in the media is our personal reporting of the problem. Mr Mohamed continues:

Later in the debate Mr Mohamed says that:

Most importantly, our articles have been a description of what we have seen during the dormitory inspection, not a gross exaggeration of how bad the conditions are. This has, through our blog and local media, been shown in pictures. If the minister wishes, we have more than 600 photos backing us as evidence, as well as videos. The article was originally posted on Maria Louise’s personal blog, and then the media storm started.

Secondly, Jeppe has been here for half a year and did not come with the intention of building a bad reputation of the country. We are both here to understand and experience the Mauritian culture, but when a story like this finds you it would be wrong to let it go. As Mr Mohamed himself states, it is our duty to report that problem.

As Mauritius has an international reputation of freedom of press and freedom of speech, we do not see it as a problem to spread awareness of this through the local media. This was not done to make a big show out of a problem, but rather to help out our fellow human beings in the best possible manner. Our descriptions should be seen as a cry of help from the migrant workers.

We are fully aware of the promulgation of the Occupational Safety and Health (Employees’ Lodging Accommodation) Regulations of 2011, but we will also like to call for a signing of the ICRMW. We are familiar with the fact that that our own home countries Denmark and Norway have not signed this convention either, which is also critical. We are informed about the exploitation of migrant workers in Denmark and the UK (where Maria Louise is residing). Mr Mohamed continues:

If the Minister wants to keep receiving thanks from the International Organisation of Labour (ILO), it might be a good idea to sign convention number 97 and 143.

Mr Mohamed explains: 

These 3 dormitories account for over 10% of the labourers of Esquel, so we consider our findings valid. We have never claimed to be researchers, so if the Minister wants to give us that honourable title it is for his own account. Our inspections are done voluntarily, with no economic backing or hidden agendas. We are only able to comment on what we have seen ourselves, and the Ministers’ use of statistics is not enough to cover up these rotten apples.