National Trade Union Forum

Mauritius:Trade Union Forum on Employment Policy, Gender Mainstreaming and Freedom of Association

Organized by ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities and ILO Country Office for Mauritius in collaboration with Confederations of Trade Unions in Mauritius; the overall objective of the trade union forum is to enhance the trade union capacity in Mauritius to understand and develop long term social and economic policies, with particular focus on national employment policy, gender issues and freedom of association.

The forum will comprise of plenary discussions categorized in the following thematic areas:

(a)Mauritius national employment policy and the role of trade unions

In the context of the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP) for Mauritius (2012-2014), it was envisaged that a National Employment Policy will be developed. This falls under Country Priority 1: “Creation of decent and productive employment with the provision of adequate social protection”. It is also indicated in the DWCP under Outcome 511: “appropriate policies including the National Employment Policy, and programme put in place leading to an increase in decent and productive employment”. In this regard, the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment has set up a Technical Tripartite Committee to discuss the issue and consider a draft National Employment Policy.

The aim of this theme is to strengthen the capacity of workers’ organizations to be able to effectively participate in the formulation and the implementation of the Mauritius National Employment Policy. The forum will also discuss trade union strategies that could address the employment challenge in Mauritius, especially arising from the impact of the global economic and financial crises.

(b) Gender mainstreaming and trade unions

Globally, studies show that women comprise 44 percent of the labour movement, but a smaller percentage of union leaders. The situation in most countries in Africa is much more desperate, in spite of tremendous efforts in the last four decades. Despite the numerous attempts at discussions around gender issues in the trade unions, it is very clear that the pace at which gender equality is moving in favour of women has been nothing but disappointing. It is therefore important for trade unions to do some serious introspection if the situation has to change. In any case, the labour movement should be setting imitable trends if it is to be taken seriously with regard to gender equality.

In the case of Mauritius, there has been heavy investment in gender issues, but the level of women participation in trade union activities remains very low. The forum will focus on the importance of having a leadership that is representative of the membership: address some of the differences between male and female leadership; and why the labour movement needs more women leaders. Some of the initiatives may include a national-level study to investigate the current state of gender relations and the situation of women in trade unions in the country. In order to enhance the role of women in trade union work, some of the relevant areas for consideration will include development of gender policies, allocation of budget to gender mainstreaming, support to Women's Committee as enshrined in the constitutional amendments, and all campaigns and activities must ensure the promotion of gender equality.

(c) Freedom of association and trade union unity

Mauritius has a population of about 1.3 million people, with about 553,000 working population. The rate of unionization is about 20 percent of the working population (111,582 union members), scattered around 19 federations and nine national confederations. It is not merely the low percentage of membership that is alarming, but also the glaring fragmentation amongst the confederations.

The challenge of forming a united front amongst federations and confederations in Mauritius has been discussed in many forums, including at the international level. In the 2000s, the then African Regional Organisation of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU-AFRO) made special attempts at uniting trade unions. In 2010, with the support of ILO, trade unions in the countries established the Conseil des Syndicats (CDS) in a bid to create one common platform for labour. This was in line with their needs as stipulated in the DWCP, and especially under Priority 2: Strengthening Social Dialogue.