Another work day in paradise

The foreign contract worker comes from China, India or Bangladesh full of hope to work and better his life and that of his family. However, paradise can sometimes be a hell in disguise.

These workers come to fill the ranks of the textile production chains in various factories. They do not expect to be housed in luxurious surroundings but the way some have been treated is tantamount to a human rights violation. Looking at some of the worker’s housing or pay conditions is equal to modern-day slavery.

You can only be shocked and disgusted at the way these people are treated by heartless bosses. The workers pay, allowances and housing is well below decent human standards. The basic salary around Rs.16.57 p/hour (Euro 0.4066 – USD 0.5675) and only working overtime permits them to earn a near decent salary. Worse still the meal allowance is Rs.22 p/day (Euro 0.5398 – USD 0.7535) too low at today’s prices. Their living accommodation, sanitary and hygiene facilities can only be described as disgusting. The dormitory has 18 beds shared by 36 workers devoid of any intimacy. You would not keep your favourite pet in those filthy conditions.

This all came into the public arena when these pitiful conditions were reported by a newspaper. This incident comes at a time when the Ministry of Labour have yet to introduce a 2011 reform by implementing the ELAR (Employees Lodging Accommodation Regulation). By this work regulation employers will be obliged to offer proper lodgings to foreign contract workers. Non-respect of this regulation will be sanctioned by a fine of Rs.75,000 (Euro 1,840 – USD 2,569) or  1 year imprisonment.

It is perplexing that a country striving for modernity has failed workers who contribute to their economy. Hopefully, the authorities will protect foreign workers and severely sanction unscrupulous factory employers. Social justice is still in its infancy and slow in implementation here. Paradise or hell, you choose.

On 1st July 2011, the below article was published in NewsNow quoting an Amnesty International report.

‘Inhumane’ conditions for migrant workers
An inspection carried out by Amnesty International Mauritius at some of the dormitories accommodating migrant workers from India, China and Madagascar revealed the “inhumane conditions” in which these workers have been living in Mauritius.

The dormitory packed with migrant workers, some of them sleeping on the floor, belonged to Universal Fabrics Ltd and Esquel Group.

The report of the inspection was written by 20-year-old Danish student Jeppe Blumensaat Rasmussen who is studying International Law and is currently on an attachment with the University of Mauritius.

He is an active member of Amnesty International. His report entitled “A Road of Shame” stated that “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.” He said that the first dormitory in Coromandel, located just behind the Royal Road, accommodated 37 Indian migrant workers employed 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 Rs1,000 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 Rs19 an hour,” the report says.

The report also mentioned a second dormitory, where workers for Universal Fabrics Ltd. live and which is found 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. One room in particular 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 – 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.

Each worker is given Rs1,000 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

“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.”

During another inspection carried out at two other dormitories of Esquel Group, which employs migrant workers from China and Madagascar, the student wrote that “the 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.”

NEWSNOW contacted the Advisor of Information Matters at the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment, Mr Yasin Poorun, who did not get back to us to comment on this situation.

By Nitesh Boodhoo
Source: NewsNow
1 July 2011

See also a blog article/report at :

0 thoughts on “Another work day in paradise”

  1. Thanks for the link Mike! I have met some of them personally (they live in 15-Cantons) and was very shocked to see the state in which they live in. It’s very sad that Mauritians are happy to live and marry abroad, or even apply for citizenship, even in countries which are much more densely populated than the island and yet we are seeing injustice on the island. These people are not being treated like humans! They are our guest and should be treated as such! The ones I met told me they do not have any intention in settling in Mauritius. They simply want to save money for their families back home or build a small house – which is what most Mauritians themselves work for. I hope the international organisations put pressure on the state. I know ILO is.

  2. Unfortunately, the authorities is the only one to be blamed here. Thousands of foreigners work in the island, yet there is not really a control. While some of them managed to get married to Mauritians, this practice is no more authorized if am not mistaken.

    It is sad to see that people are living here in such conditions, while contributing to the success of the country. Let’s hope that they get their due.

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