The structure of the labour market in Mauritius has evolved overtime with the advent of fundamental structural changes in the economy over the past three decades. This change can be attributed to the rapid development of the manufacturing sector in the 1970s and to the emergence of new sectors in the late 80s and early 90s, namely in the field of tourism and financial services. Since the industrialization, profound changes did occur in the socio-economic activities. Following industrialization and the setting up of several private enterprises, the relationship between the management and the employees has been rendered more complex. There has always been fundamental divergence of interest between employers and employees, which has contributed to a conflictual relationship. Employers have always been seen as a direct menace towards the interests of employees as the former trying to extract maximum effort and in return giving minimum to employees in terms of rewards. Therefore it was imperative of the setting up of a platform where the key players namely the employees, the state and the management would interact and align their interests at the workplace. Therefore, a trade union is defined as any organisation, whose membership consists of Employees which seek to organise and represent their interest both in the workplace and society. Trade union seeks to regulate the employment relationship through the direct process of collective bargaining with management. It forms an integral component in industrial relations.
Background of Study
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Conflicts at work are bound to arise because:
Organisations have changed from the small family concerns to huge Multinationals Corporation. The economy now has a large public sector element, comprised of civil service, local government, nationalized industries and private sector.
Larger organisation proves harder to manage This was evidenced in the 19 August 1970when the Dockers went on strike because there was a poor employment relations and the whole economy was stagnated as a result this particular picture showed how employment relation is important and how bad management have negative repercussions.
Welfare of employees has been given much weight and is still remains a sensitive issue. Whether or not the companies recognized trade unions, they all had to work alongside. All high- performing companies need to have a policy agenda to create relationships with their business objectives.
What produces good employment relations depends broadly in correctly attitudes like trust, confidence and good personal relationship between the people involved and above all, a willingness to work together. Academics have prescribed collaboration as the way forward and it is quite obvious that the only way organizations can survive in the competitive market by overcoming the inherent conflicts to the organization, thereby maximum use of resources. Employers and employees being two distinct stakeholders, have different needs, values, interests and objectives hence it is difficult to consolidate all these, especially, if the historical evolution of the employment relationships have been torn by disputes and conflicts.
Objectives and aims of the study
Evolution of trade unions in Mauritius
Whether employees welfare have improve
Whether trade unions
The history of trade unionism in Mauritius can be traced back to the early 1920s, when Willy Moutou, a typesetter, made an attempt to form the first trade union, which he named the National Trade Union of Mauritius, and to organise the first workers' strike on the island.
But it was only in the 1930s that the trade union movement really took off, coinciding with the emergence of class politics and the beginning of a new era of change, not just in Mauritius, but also in many other parts of the colonial world.
The Societe de Bienfaisance des Travailleurs and the Labour Party were created in 1936 and led by the same people, with basically the same political philosophy. The result was a close affiliation between the workers' organization and the political party, which lasted for more than half a century.
The 1930s also witnessed the first labour riots during which several workers were shot dead. The decade culminated with the creation of an administrative, legal and industrial relations framework to regulate and control the nascent trade union movement.
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The new labour laws and institutions proved to be totally inadequate in the context of the Second World War and its economic hardships. Workers went into the streets in 1943 and, as in 1937, police fired at them, killing four. Among the dead was Anjalay. The 1943 unrest led to several amendments to the Industrial Association Ordinance, such as the creation of an industrial dispute court and an arbitration court. It also led to the creation of the first national trade unions: the Mauritius
Electrical and Technical Workers Union (METWU) led by Anquetil, and the Mauritius Agricultural Laborers Association (MALA) led by Ramnarain, the two leading and at the same time antagonistic, figures of the workers movement.
Theories of Trade Unionism
There is no one theory of Trade Unionism, but many contributors to these theories are revolutionaries like Marx and Engels, Civil servants like Sydney Webb, academics like Common and Hoxie and labour leader like Mitchall. Important theories of trade unionism are as follows.
Political Revolutionary Theory of Labour Movement of Marx and Engels: This theory is based on Adam Smiths theory of labour value. Its short run purpose is to eliminate competition among labour, and the ultimate purpose is to overthrow capitalist businessman. Trade union is pure simple a class struggle, and proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains and they a world to win.
Webbs Theory of Industrial Democracy: Webb's book 'Industrial democracy' is the Bible of trade unionism. According to Webb, trade unionism is an extension of democracy from political sphere to industrial sphere. Webb agreed with Marx that trade unionism is a class struggle and modern capitalist state is a transitional phase which will lead to democratic socialism. He considered collective bargaining as the process which strengthens labour.
Cole's Theory of Union Control of Industry: Cole's views are given in his book "World of Labour" 1913. His views are somewhere in between Webb and Marx. He agrees that unionism is class struggle and the ultimate is the control of industry by labour and not revolution as predicted by Marx.
Common's Environment Theory: He was sceptical of generalisations and believed only that which could be proved by evidence. He agreed that collective bargaining was an instrument of class struggle, but he summarised that ultimately there will be partnership between employers and employees.
Mitchell's Economic Protection Theory of Trade Unionism: Mitchell, a labour leader, completely rejected individual bargaining. According to him unions afford economic protection to.
Simons Theory of Monopolistic, anti-Democratic Trade Unionism: He denounced trade unionism as monopoly founded on violence. And he claimed monopoly power has no use save abuse.
Perlman's Theory of the "Scarcity Consciousness" of Manual Workers: He rejected the idea of class consciousness as an explanation for the origin of the trade union movement but substituted it with what he called job consciousness. According to him, 'working people in reality felt an urge towards collective control of their employment opportunities, but hardly towards similar control of industry.' Perlman observed that three dominant factors emerged from the rich historical data: The capacity or incapacity of the capitalist system to survive as a ruling group in the face of revolutionary attacks (e.g., failure in Russia). The source of the anti-capitalist influences being primarily from among the intellectuals in any society.
The most vital factor in the labour situation was the trade union movement. Trade unionism, which is essentially pragmatic, struggles constantly not only against the employers for an enlarged opportunity measure in income, security and liberty in the shop and industry, but struggles also, whether consciously or unconsciously, actively or passively, against the intellectual who would frame its programmes and shape its policies.
But Perlman also felt that a theory of the labour movement should include a theory of the psychology of the labouring man. For instance, there was a historical continuity between the guilds and trade unions, through their common fundamental psychology; the psychology of seeking a livelihood in the face of limited economic opportunity. It was when manual workers became aware of a scarcity of opportunity, that they banded together into unions for the purpose of protecting their jobs and distributing employment opportunities among themselves equitably, and to subordinate the interests of the individual to the whole labour organism. Unionism was ruled thus by this fundamental scarcity consciousness (Perlman, 1970).
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Hoxies Functional Classification of Unionism: He classified Unionism on the basis of their functions. His classification were Business Unionism for protecting the interest of various craftsmen, "Uplift unionism" for the purpose of contributing better life such as association of sales engineers etc. "Revolutionary Unionism" which is eager to replace existing social order, "Predatory Unionism" which rests on these support of others.
Tannenbaum's Theory of Man Vs. Machine: According to him Union is formed in reaction to alienation and loss of community in an individualistic and unfeeling society. In his words, the union returns to the workers his society, which he left behind him when he migrated from a rural background to the anonymity of an urban industrial location. The union gives the worker a fellowship and a value system that he shares with others like him. Institutionally, the trade union movement is an unconscious effort to harness the drift of our time and reorganise it around the cohesive identity that men working together always achieve.
Importance and Objectives of Trade unions
A strong trade union is found to be pre-requisite for industrial peace. Through collective bargaining, any trade unions will take decisions that benefit both the employer and employees. Trade unions also help in the process of effective communication between workers and management. The central function of a trade union is to represent people at work. But they also have a wider role in protecting their interests. They also play an important educational role, organizing courses for their members on a wide range of matters. Seeking a healthy and safe working environment is also prominent feature of union activity. Some of the objectives of a trade union are listed below:
Wages and Salaries: The subject which drew the major attention of the trade unions is wages and salaries. Of course, this item may be related to policy matters. However, differences may arise in the process of their implementation. In the case of unorganised sector the trade union plays a crucial role in bargaining the pay scales.
Working Conditions: Trade unions with a view to safeguard the health of workers' demands the management to provide all the basic facilities such as, lighting and ventilation, sanitation, rest rooms, safety equipment while discharging hazardous duties, drinking, refreshment, minimum working hours, leave and rest, holidays with pay, job satisfaction, social security benefits and other welfare measures.
Discipline: Trade unions not only conduct negotiations in respect of the items with which their working conditions may be improved but also protect the workers from the clutches of management whenever workers become the victims of management's unilateral acts and disciplinary policies. This victimisation may take the form of penal transfers, suspensions, dismissals, etc. In such a situation the separated worker who is left in a helpless condition may approach the trade union. Ultimately the problem may be brought to the notice of management by the trade union and it explains about the injustice met out to an individual worker and fights the management for justice. Thus, the victimised worker may be protected by the trade union.
Personnel Policies: Trade unions may fight against improper implementation of personnel policies in respect of recruitment, selection, promotions, transfers, training, etc.
Welfare: As stated earlier, trade unions are meant for the welfare of workers. Trade union works as a guide, consulting authority and cooperates in overcoming the personnel problems of workers. It may bring to the notice of management, through collective bargaining meetings, the difficulties of workers in respect of sanitation, hospitals, quarters, schools and colleges for their children's cultural and social problems.
Employee-employer relation: A harmonious relation between the employees and employer is a sine quo non for industrial peace. A trade union always strives for achieving this objective. However, the bureaucratic attitude and unilateral thinking of management may lead to conflicts in the organisation which ultimately disrupt the relations between the workers and management. Trade union, being the representative of all the workers, may carry out continuous negotiations with the management with a view to promote industrial peace.
State of trade unions in Mauritius
After the promulgation of the Employment Relations Act 2008 (ERA) that took effect as from 2nd February 2009 the minimum number of persons to form an organization has been brought to five (Section 5(1)(f)) reinforcing FOA. The Trade Union Movement has, since its inception, supports and defends the Right of the workers. They were conscious that the improvement of working conditions and social protection should be part and parcel of its objectives and actions.
Almost all the working groups are members of trade unions. Ten to twenty Trade Unions grouped together to form FEDERATIONS and these federations has joined to form the:
- MAURITIUS LABOUR CONGRESS,
- FEDERATION OF PROGRESSIVE UNIONS,
- MAURITIUS TRADE UNION CONGRESS and
- NATIONAL TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION.
These confederations are affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). Since last year the International Labour Organisation is putting much effort to form an apex body for the confederations but we are still a long way from that.
Trade union movement has, over the years, through collective bargaining and other means been able to do much in terms of Social Protection and Social Security Systems. These are as follows:
Security of employment and a stable salary
Allowances like bonus, sick leaves, local leaves and maternity and paternity leaves
Protective equipment and medical facilities
Education leave and family housing facilities
Priorities of Trade Unions in Mauritius
Education of workers to make them aware of their Fundamental rights and International Labour Standards so as to ensure decent work for one and all. There is also an urgent need to train leaders and negotiators on Labour Relations and Negotiating Techniques in order to enable them to better address the numerous challenges and problems the labour movement is facing in the wake of globalisation.
Networking of the different trade unions to work as one body to make sure that Social Justice prevails in all the sectors. United we Stand - Divided we fall. Ensure that they are not prey to government and Employers lobbying.
Recognition and reorganizing workers in the Informal Sector so that workers become more powerful and no one is left behind.
Contribute in " Maurice Ile Durable". This new concept that the government is emphasizing on so as to make the future brighter. Incentives are being given to use solar water heater and also to invest in photo voltaic cell plate to produce electricity. Excess production is being sold to the Central Electricity Board. Mass education is necessary to encourage people to go for these projects and to have a greener Mauritius.
Women's Role in Trade Union.
There is no doubt that women played a critical role in supporting and enabling Mauritius to export successfully in the past 20 years. Most workers in the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) are women (81 per cent in 1983 and 71 per cent in 2000). This reliance on women workers in the EPZ is undoubtedly based partly on:
(i)the sex stereotyping of occupation (garments and textiles are felt to be best suited for women) and
(ii) the lower pay levels in the EPZ as compared to other sectors of the economy, and the willingness of women to accept lower pay than men.
Women generally feels the inertia about forming a trade unions despite being the major bread winner, they still have household responsibilities and childcare. This results in they have very little time and energy to participate in trade unions activities.
Labour force participation rates over the past two decades were due to factors such as increasing female education levels and decreasing fertility. It is likely that the demand for women workers in the EPZ has increased and this demand has probably changed women's aspirations and therefore permanently increased female labour force. This has undoubtedly helped to restrain wage increases in the EPZ by a high degree of empowerment with regard to economic activity. As far as union work is concerned, even though the women and men interviewed stated that women preferred, voluntarily, not to take leadership positions, they were very much present and very active in the second row, especially in issues of national and societal interest, and their contributions were always openly and respectfully acknowledged by the union leaders. One woman, in a 1993 National Geographic article, said: 'For a Mauritian woman, to work is to be free. Before, a girl could not leave home until her parents found a husband for her, and then she moved into her husband's family's home and spent the rest of her life having babies. I met my husband at work, and it was my decision to marry him. Now we live in our own house.'
The government has taken measures to promote equality of the sexes by repealing discriminatory laws dealing with inheritance and emigration. In 1989 the government appointed equal opportunity officers in the principal ministries to deal with women's issues. Reports by the Ministry of Women's Rights and Family Welfare and others indicate, however, that violence against women is prevalent. The increased employment of women has created the need for more child-care services and for more laboursaving devices in the home. Example of a union would be Muyman Liberasyon Fam (MLF), La ligue Feministe and the Association des Femmes Mauriciennes were orientated women groups who fought for women's right and status in Mauritius. The Association des Femmes Mauriciennes had a more elite membership, but here as well, some members used the media through television and radio to educate women.
Health and Safety at Workplace
It is and remains an undeniable fact that good, hygienic and safe working conditions are conducive to the better health of employees who, as a result, put in higher efforts in their work by which the organization benefits from higher productivity. Section 5 of the Occupational Safety Health and Welfare Act (OSHWA) 1988 provides that the employer should ensure the safety, health and welfare of all his employees at the workplace. Hence, many organizations have health and safety policies which demonstrate concern for the protection of employees against hazards. A health and safety policy includes programs that are related to the need and concern of protecting employees from accidents, damage to people and property and ill-health that can arise from working conditions. For instance, employees in a factory should be provided with safety helmets, they should be made aware of the safety measures to be taken so as to prevent any kind of hazard.
However, it should be noted that not every organization deems it important to show concern to the health and safety of employees. Such organizations aim only at profit maximization and sometimes at the expense of the health and safety of workers. Nevertheless, certain organizations such as the British American Tobacco and the Floreal Knitwear have paid attention to this issue in the past. They have not only complied with the law, but have also engaged in a sensitization process by means of different activities such as safety exhibitions.
Health and Safety as an issue for trade unions
The traditional role of trade unions has been to protect and promote the interests of members. The major concern and focus of unions as well as workers has always been wages and salaries. Very often, the health and safety aspect has been ignored by unions. It is imperative to note that if working conditions are not safe and hygienic; the impact will be directly on the performance of workers which in turn will result in low productivity. On the other hand, workplace hazards and accidents give rise to unpleasant effects such as death or permanent disablement which not only cause suffering to the victim, but also to the family members dependent on him. There are many circumstances whereby people ignore or forget the risks and hazards that are associated to their work. First of all, people faced with employment problems take up any work at any price so as to sustain their family and very often they forget about the problems associated with that particular work. Secondly, fierce competition pressurizes the worker to compromise with his own health and safety. The question that arises is how this issue is important for trade unions. As it has been formerly been mentioned, trade unions should operate in the interests of their members; as regard to this their primary duty should be to keep their members healthy and safe so as to be more performing. People in any organization are considered to be the major factor that contributes by means of their work to help the organization meet its aims and objectives. As a representative of workers, trade unions should see to it that workers enjoy a safe working environment so as to avoid any hazardous incident to take place in the organization. Trade unions can modify the workplace so that hazards and dangers are eliminated. Another thing that unions can do is to educate their members on how to prevent hazards from taking place; for instance unions can make their members aware of the safety measures that they have to take into consideration in respect to the type of work that they are doing. Unions can also get involved in safety audits. Normally, safety audits are conducted by safety advisers and HR specialists, but the better it is if unions get involved into it. A safety audit will in fact examine the whole organization so as to assess whether the organization is meeting its safety aims and objectives. For example it will examine safety planning processes among others.
Contribution of trade unions in promoting health and safety at work
Bigger unions such as the Government Servants' Association (GSA), the Federation of Civil Service Unions (FCSU) and the Mauritian Labour Congress (MLC) have their own education centres in the country. These unions train their members in matters of health and safety.
In collaboration with the government, these unions try to find remedies for problems of health and safety at the workplace. In fact, on the occasion of the 59th Annual Conference of the Government Servants' Association (GSA) in the year 2004, the then Minister of Civil Affairs and Administrative Reforms, Hon. A. S. Jeewah, pointed out:
"There is regular interaction between my Ministry and the Federations of Civil Service Unions to thrash out issues relating to terms and conditions of employment, health and safety at the workplace and the welfare of public officers."
However, it should be noted that such activities are carried out only by the bigger unions in the country. Not all unions have the financial means to provide education and training to their members. In addition, they also lack the necessary know-how as well as other facilities.
Role of Trade unions in the Education Sector
With many trade unions in Mauritius and many competing trade unions in the same sector. The educational sector is of no exception to the rule. Having several trade unions representing teachers in primary, secondary and public or private. The most largest and powerful trade union remains the Government Teachers Union (GTU). There are many objectives of the GTU according to their constitution. However, in short it could be seen that their main function is to make representations to the Pay Research Bureau (PRB) in connection with the salary revision exercise and various conditions of service. It also negotiates with the Ministry of Education on behalf of its members for matters like transfer, grievances, leaves and complaints and also regularly organise press conference to express their views concerning issues affecting teachers at school. In this connection, the GTU do work in close collaboration in order to better understand problems at schools and trying to defend their members when problems and dispute arises.
Contribution of the Government Teachers Union in the Educational Sector
Role of Trade unions in the Sugar Industry
Â Mauritius had reached the apex of its importance in the world sugar market. Overall production would continue to rise into the twentieth century, massive increase in production in other countries robbed Mauritius of its dominant role in subsequent years. Indentured workers from India replaced slaves as a source of cheap labour for the sugar plantations. During the last year of arrivals, Indians migrated to Mauritius under contract to work for at least ten years for low wages under harsh conditions. At the end of their contracts, workers supposedly had the option of returning home, but plantation owners often succeeded in eliminating this choice. Many plantation owners punished workers with beatings, hunted down those who ran away and imprisoned them, and unjustly withheld pay. In 1878 a labour law passed to regularise the pay system, and in 1917 the indenture system formally ended. Moreover, in 1922 law permitted workers to choose their places of work. In 1926 the first Indo-Mauritians were elected to the government council. This small victory, however, did not lead to better conditions in the community. Despite incremental improvements in contracts, wages, and working conditions on the sugar plantations and in processing plants, the work was as hard and daily life as precarious as they had been 100 years previously. In addition, the boom-or-bust nature of the world sugar economy meant that only the upper classes were insulated from hardship during periods of low world demand. Dissatisfaction on the part of Indian workers and small planters sparked widespread rioting on Mauritius in 1937 and 1943, and a strike in 1938.
During this period, Indian and Creole Mauritians formed several organizations aimed at improving labor laws and introducing political reforms. Dr. Maurice Curé, a noted Creole politician, founded the MLP in 1936. The party attracted urban Creole workers and rural Indian farmers. Another important group was the Indian Cultural Association, and a notable member of this group was Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, who would become the country's first prime minister.
The major trade unions of the sugar industry found in Mauritius are the following:
Plantation Workers Union
Sugar Industry Workers Association (SIWA)
Sugar Industry Labourers' Union
Sugar Industry Labourers' Union (SILU)
Mauritius Sugar Producers Association (MSPA)
Analysis of strength of Trade Unions in Mauritius
In the wake of the growing influence of globalization where we are witnessing that more and more precarious forms of employment are affecting workers, the need for strong trade union organizations is increasingly felt. Furthermore, in the name of
flexibility and to toe the line with exigencies of international organizations, namely the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, there has been a weakening of labour laws with regard to job security, terms and conditions of work as well as trade union rights
To start with, the sugar industry was the backbone of the Mauritian economy, but since a few years, the republic of Mauritius has been witnessing a change concerning the importance of the different industriesÂ Although trade unions have been present since a very long time to fight back and voice out the benefits and welfare of the employees in the sugar industry yet we see that nowadays their role is decreasing. Many firms especially those with strong founding values prefer to manage their relationship directly with their employees rather than through trade unions. One of the reasons why trade unions' roles are decreasing is mainly due to the employees itself.
The sugar industry has been affected locally by strong trade unions who gain progressively more power, thus further influencing the respective firms regarding the production and processing of sugar through the factories. But there are other reasons for the declining of the sugar industry, such as the increase in global competitiveness of the sugar markets, thus the reason being the local industries specializing in different varieties of processed sugars. For example brown sugar, flavoured sugar and so on primarily exported to other markets.
Moreover, the sugar industry has also been facing problems concerning the precedent preferential benefits that had been agreed for the Mauritian Republic at the LOME (IV) convention as it has been disregarded unfortunately.
Due to the trade Unions of the sugar industry, the firms have been losing in competitive cost advantages. More precisely, because of the trade Unions, the cost of labour has been increasing respectively depending on the different firms, thus adding to the total cost of production that in its turn increased the prices of the sugar products which finally lead to the lost in competitive advantage of the Mauritian Sugar products compared to the competitors. Although trade unions have been present since a very long time to fight back and voice out the benefits and welfare of the employees in the sugar industry yet we see that nowadays their role is decreasing. Many firms especially those with strong founding values prefer to manage their relationship directly with their employees rather than through trade unions. One of the reasons why trade unions' roles are decreasing is mainly due to the employees itself. Nowadays there is a lack of solidarity among the employees; workers are more interests in their individual needs and interests rather than the needs of the collectivity as a whole. This is because due to the number of workers who are being fired from work in the sugar industry. In the past 5 years many workers in the sugar industry have been facing a harsh time because their job was at risk. The fact that the sugar industry is no longer making so much profits and especially with mechanization, the workers are no longer needed. In order to bring down labour costs, which stood well above 50% of production costs, a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) was introduced in 2001 and some 8200 employees of the sugar industry opted for voluntary retirement. The benefits guaranteed to such employees are 300 m2 of land and a cash compensation of 2 months' salary per year of service for male agricultural workers who are 55 years and above and female agricultural workers who are 50 years and above. As it can be seen the workers' state is quite distressful and it is quite obvious that they are more focused on their sole benefit rather than being bothered with the welfare of other workers. This non solidarity and individualism among workers lead to decrease the role of the trade unions in the sugar industry. Moreover it is seen that workers in the sugar industry have less faith in the trade unionism because according to them the leaders of the trade unions are corrupt and that the government can provide them with more benefits than the unions. Many workers find that the trade unions are not really interested in solving their problems hence they prefer not to turn themselves towards the trade unionists because they are left unheard. One particular situation which cropped up recently is whereby most trade unions represented by the Joint Negotiating Panel (JNP) yesterday denounced the refusal of the Mauritius Sugar Producers Association (MSPA) to negotiate before the board of the National Remuneration Board (NRB) concerning salary compensation and other benefits which workers of the sugar industry have been claiming. The MSPA wants negotiate at the level of individual sugar estates, which the JNP strongly disagrees with. The trade unions have previously threatened to hold a general strike in the sugar industry if the MSPA does not agree to negotiate for compensation and other benefits for all sugar industry workers with the JNP in front of the NRB. This situation is quite alarming because the MSPA, who is supposed to help the sugar industry employees in their difficult time, is turning its back on them and this is why employees are losing faith in trade unions. Another reason why the role of trade unions is decreasing is also because of the rivalry among the different trade unions, which has also created this lack of solidarity as employees are divided instead of regrouping them as one collectively representing the labour force of the sugar industry.