In the run-up to the general election, it is important to have an electoral platform that will address the needs of the working class. It is true that for some time now, the working class has been struggling to make ends meet, because wages do not correspond to the high cost of living. Indeed, the household basket is getting higher and higher, and most Mauritians are struggling to make it through the month. To elaborate a little more on this theme, the ki nouvo moris set on Monday, March 4, 2024, had as guests Ashok Subron, trade union negotiator and member of the eco-socialist party Rezistans ek Alternativ (ReA) and Moïse Toulcanon, the president of the Private Sector Employee Union (PSEU). In the face of this tumult, it is crucial to establish a political project for the working class. The debate was hosted by Ashvin Gudday.

Assessment of the situation of the working class.

The situation of the working class continues to deteriorate over the years. It is true that nowadays young people do not feel like they belong in the world of work in which they have to operate. With the pitiful working conditions as well as the salary that does not correspond to the effort made, they feel sidelined and denigrated. Moïse Toulcanon deplores the almost inhumane conditions in which many Mauritians are forced to work.

The health of workers is threatened and every day we have complaints about warehouses where there are no vents. The heat that exists in these companies makes many workers feel sick, between daily headaches and weakness, many can no longer go to work, which is a shame because it is their livelihood.”

Faced with the new working conditions, there is a lot of precariousness, says Ashok Subron. Today, the country is experiencing a very similar moment to before independence. That is to say, a good section of the population, more specifically the working class and young people are leaving the country. The union negotiator mentions that the most important questions to ask is, why the most skilled workers are leaving the country in droves?

For the past few years, we have witnessed a mass exodus of the working population of Mauritius.”

Mauritius is quite different from other African countries, says Ashok Subron. Indeed, after the abolition of slavery and the end of the period of indentured labor, the island experienced an emerging working population, the wage earners. Mauritius then experienced salaried employment very early compared to other African countries such as Madagascar where the country experienced the peasantry before having paid workers.

The island has a tradition of workers’ militancy that is quite different from the other islands and the working class plays a role in how society is shaped.”

Analysis of the workers’ conference of 27 February.

Regarding the press conference of February 27 at the Unity House of Beau-Bassin, Moïse Toulcanon brings out that it is important to have such activities that put the workers of Mauritius in motion. Indeed, the mobilization must take place because the rights of the workers are being trampled upon. He describes the 13 resolutions discussed at the press conference as necessary for the growth and safety of employees. Undeniably, with the climate crisis, the law needs to be standard for everyone.

It is not possible that every time there is heavy rain with the risk of flooding, the working class still has to go to work and risk their lives. This year there has been lost of human life, and it is a lack of respect for this working class to force them to do their duty in circumstances that put their lives in danger.”

As a reminder, even transport companies in the middle of a class 3 cyclone have had to provide services to the public.

Ashok Subron, for his part, said that the conference organized by the union was also intended to sensitize workers on what is really crucial at election time.

At election time, the political parties must not squeeze the workers like a steppingstone. The demands must be for an increase in the level of wages and also for the quality of life.”

The political project for the working class.

With the next election fast approaching, it is important to talk about political projects for the working class. Indeed, Mauritian law at the moment does not really honor the hard work of the working class. For these reasons, ReA and other trade union organizations have stressed the importance of having more rights that will address the needs of employees.

First of all, the management of disasters. Trade unionists claim that it is imperative to ban all forms of discrimination. The climate crisis affects all workers, and it is unfair that those operating in the private sector have to risk their lives by going to work while the government itself exempts public employees from going to work. There is a need to create a single law for the public and private sectors, says Ashok Subron.

In fact, 12 days of parental leave should be granted so that workers can carry out their duty as parents, such as going to the children’s medical and school check-ups.

Menstrual leave should also be in the political agenda for the well-being of female workers and the 40-hour work week should be generalized for all sectors.

To conclude, we see that a series of measures must be implemented for the well-being of workers in the Mauritian society. It is true that today there is a kind of discrimination between the treatment of employees in the public and private sectors. Between the high cost of life and the salary that does not correspond to the workload performed by the workers, it is more than crucial to come up with concrete political projects to guarantee the protection of the interests of the workers.

 Watch the debate here: