Trade Union Outcry

The government has been in the process of setting up a National Pay Council (NPC), a tripartite body to look into matters relating to pay review and compensation for loss of purchasing power. The main trade union confederations, the Mauritius Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and the National Trade Union Council (NTUC) raised objections for various reasons and did not send any representatives to the Council.

There was a deadlock for quite some time until on Friday five individual trade unionists were appointed by the government without consultation with the trade union movement. They do not seem to have been mandated by the latter. They are believed to be close to the ruling party in power; and this has created an ambiguous situation in the country. Is it reasonable for them to discuss issues and take decisions on behalf of those who weren’t aware of their appointment? And still those who haven’t, so to say, given their green light to be represented by them? It’s more a question of ethics and morality. Not much can be done to correct this anomalous situation, it seems.

But the confederations are determined to maintain pressure on government and the parachuted representatives. Already they are shouting vigorously and moving for a mass rally. They are also alerting the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

A tripartite structure has always existed and was chaired by the Minister of Finance for the purpose of discussing the quantum of salary compensation with respect to inflation each year. This year the government has decided to have a so-called independent body with a “neutral” chairman. As long as neutrality is observed and people are appointed in the spirit of fairness and equity, there’s no problem. But there’s widespread belief that appointment in such bodies, the more so the chairman, is done on the basis of political affinity. This is where the shoe pinches.

Another point of contention seems to be the question of discussing pay issues at this level. Trade unions claim that there already exist bodies for such purpose, namely the Pay Research Bureau (PRB) for the public sector employees and the National Remuneration Board (NRB) for the private sector, which have stood the test of time. Government has decided to do away with these two structures in the wake of reform initiatives undertaken since a while. The situation seems therefore to get somewhat complicated.

Let’s see how the rank and file would react.

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