Last Two Projects
Since 2009 we have put much emphasis on the capacity building of workers representatives. Our aim was to enhance the capability of the workers representatives to effectively conduct Collective Bargaining at enterprise level and to advocate at national level to influence policy decision. Our action was geared through two projects. One is “ORGANISING AGAINST PRECARIOUS JOBS” and the second one is “DECENT WORK IS SAFE WORK”.
For the project “Organising against precarious jobs” one of our representatives has been selected by a Global Union Federation to attend a training for trainers workshop which started in 2009 and scheduled over 6 years. Our representative was also selected to attend the International Labour Organisation Conference on Precarious employment in October 2011 in Geneva Switerzland.
Our organisation now forms part in the International Coordinating Committee on Precarious employment. Since 2009 we organise training for 25 local trainers on a yearly basis. The training for trainers has been organised each year since 2009 with the support of our national coordinator and the international coordinator for Africa region on precarious employment. The beneficiaries of the training are selected from different sectors of the economy where gender equity is scrupulously respected.
The roles of the trainers are to transmit to their fellow colleagues all information and training they have received. Each trainer has the obligation to organsie a peer group in their respective enterprise and organise workers to conduct collective bargaining.
Our organisation monitor and measure the outcome of the workshops through the gains achieved through Collective bargaining and enshrined in a Collective agreement.
Despite the labour laws which are now more investors friendly, we have managed to upgrade conditions of work and wages of workers in many enterprises.
However, workers remain vulnerable. Employers can terminate the employment of any worker at any time, without having to justify prior to termination. This problem cannot be addressed at enterprise level solely. Employment and workers protection should be governed by labour laws, however according to free market economy policies, the labour market must be flexible in order to achieve competitiveness.
We were lost with no other alternatives. After organising the workers at enterprise level, we have to lobby and advocate at national executive level to influence policy decision that would best protect workers as a citizen.
The second part of the project to organise people (workers and their family) at regional and national level. To conduct all necessary preparedness for visibility actions to organise and mobilize the people to support the cause of the workers in mass gathering.
For the last 3 years we have organised not less than 3 mass gathering at national level each year. We have distributed not less than 50,000 printed materials per year to explain the why and how of our actions. We have succeeded in bringing together other organisations of the civil society other than trade unions to support a common cause, “Poverty alleviation and the creation of decent jobs with decent wage.” The struggle continues.
Our second project is focused entirely on Health, Safety and Environment. Our organisation has since its foundation lobby and advocate for a safe working environment. We have initiated the “BAN ASBESTOS” campaign in 1990 and in 2001 the importation of raw asbestos was banned.
However, we consider that we still have a long way to go to develop a health and safety culture in Mauritius. The project started in 2006 after a survey our organisation undertook in the enterprises where workers were unionized. The outcome of the survey revealed that despite workers were benefiting from an attractive remuneration, health and safety at work was undermined.
The main cause outlined was the ignorance of the workers on health and safety issues. With the support of the International Global Union Federation in the building and woodworking sector, we embarked on a project for the training of shop stewards in health and safety committees at enterprise level.
At the same time we embarked on a sensitization campaign on health and safety at work at national level. A safety week is organised every year in April to mark the commemoration of the World Day for Safety at Work on the 28th of April.
We have translated the main Act O.S.H.A 2005 in creole (our local language) to be more user friendly for the workers. Since 2007 our organisation has trained not less than 20 workers representative for different sectors to enable them to act as Vice President of the Health and Safety Committee as stipulated in the O.S.H.A. 2005. A Health and Safety Collective Agreement was developed to facilitate discussion with employers. Our effort to put health and safety issues at the centre of Decent Work, revealed to be unproductive. Employers were reluctant to invest in safe working materials and processes without any immediate benefits in profits.
They considered investment in new safe working processes as a threat to the competitiveness of the enterprise as they use the term “as far as practicable.”
In fact the O.S.H.A 2005 was a core Legislation that was supposed to be completed with specific regulations. Floodgates for litigation were opened.
In 2009 we initiated an aggressive campaign at both national and international level against unscrupulous employers who were reluctant to invest in health & safety devices. A “Name and Shame” campaign started. We denounced all enterprises where work-related accidents were due to the negligence of employers. Printed materials were distributed all over the island to sensitize the public at large. Many a time meeting with political deciders and the Minister of Labour were organised. Public Exhibitions, debates and press conferences were organised. As from 2010 almost every month a meeting with the media was organised. Not an opportunity was missed to point out the loopholes in the O.S.H.A. 2005 without any attached regulations.
At the same time community based meetings were organised to sensitise people in the regions with dwelling made of asbestos cement “Cite EDC” were our main target. The peak of our project was in 2011. 16 workers died in accidents at work in 2011. It was the record of all time in our history and not withstanding that another 17 workers died in a commuting accident while going to work in a Transport provided by their employers. A total of 33 workers died in accident at work in 2011. We organised 2 additional seminars on health and safety in 2011 where 70 persons were targeted as volunteers to distribute and explain to the public at large the urgent need for government to be more severe against negligent employers through the introduction of specific regulations on health and safety.
Between 2011 and 2012 not less than 10 regulations attached to the main Act O.S.H.A 2005 has been voted in parliament. Our project to sensitise the workers and trained fully-fledged shop stewards as workers representatives has been a success. Our pledge to sensitize political deciders to support the introduction of Health and Safety Regulations has been an unprecedented success. For 2013, 5 new Regulations proposed by our organisations namely Asbestos, Transportation of Workers, Risk Assessment, Ship Building and Scaffolding has been retained and submitted to the Advisory Council on Occupational Health and Safety for discussion at tripartite level. We have made many victories and yet the battle is not over.