Mauritius removes foreign labor quotas in key sectors. However, unions are calling for better protection and increased opportunities for local workers, in order to counter the talent drain and wage inequalities.

Foreign labor quotas will be removed in the manufacturing, jewelry, freeport and ICT/BPO sectors. Announcement from Minister Padayachy during his grand oral, Friday June 7. Recruitment procedures have also been relaxed. For many trade unionists, foreign labor is a “necessary evil”, especially in the face of the exodus of young Mauritians.

Whether it is Reeaz Chuttoo, Confederation of Private and Public Sector Workers, Vinod Seegum, President of the All Civil Service Employees Federation, or Deepak Benydin, President of the Federation of Parastatal Bodies and Other Union , all are unanimous in recognizing that “foreign workers, whatever their nationality, contribute to the advancement of the economy”. In this sense, adds Deepak Benydin, “it is crucial to put an end to the discrimination that these workers face, whether in terms of their salaries or their housing conditions.”

Reeaz Chuttoo agrees: “Foreign workers deserve to be protected. Article 16 of the Constitution clearly states that one cannot discriminate against an individual based on their origin. » At the same time, he welcomes the measure included in the annex to the 2024-25 Budget, authorizing a foreign worker to join a union. This corrects a historical injustice, he says. “This was also the proposal formulated by the CTSP during the pre-budget negotiations,” he specifies.

Still, it is important to advocate equal opportunities. “Mauritians must not be marginalized and sacrificed. The priority is to place everyone on an equal footing. We must give Mauritians a chance, because the country is blessed with a good number of talents,” maintains Deepak Benydin.

However, it is clear that more and more of these Mauritian talents are leaving the country, worries Radhakrishna Sadien, president of the State Employees Federation. “We must not allow the exodus of our talents,” he insists. “The government is acting in the educational field, but it is a shame that our young people are exposing their knowledge elsewhere,” he laments. The erosion of local talent is a real threat to the sustainable development of Mauritius. “Young people trained locally often seek opportunities abroad, which deprives the country of qualified human resources,” explains the trade unionist. Radhakrishna Sadien therefore calls for more effective retention policies, emphasizing the importance of promoting local skills.

Vinod Seegum adds, for his part, that if the recruitment of foreign workers is a viable solution in the short term, it is also crucial to think about the training of Mauritians. “There must be a reasonable salary,” he suggests. This is precisely where the problem lies. “The worries of workers lie mainly in salary relativity,” he says. The 2024-2025 Budget, he notes, does not recommend anything in this direction. For the trade unionist, the government should have “advanced a date to reassure the working class… and we remained unsatisfied”. However, he believes that the increase in the guaranteed minimum wage to Rs 20,000 is “a notable step forward in the current context”

Civil service recruitment

Radhakrishna Sadien is concerned about the lack of measures to encourage recruitment into the civil service. “I don’t see any measure that addresses the creation of additional positions or even recruitment,” he laments. And more particularly in the health services, notably the paramedical department and the Mauritius Fire and Rescue Services, which are short of staff. “We must respond to these problems,” he insists.

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