Bitter battle: Mauritius’ sugar sector suffers as strike enters seventh day
The members of the Mauritius Sugar Producers’ Association (MSPA) rued that negotiations will not succeed due to several other conditions that the union wants to impose, apart from insisting on salary increase being granted over 2 years instead of 4. (Image: Reuters)
Mauritius Sugar Producers’ Association (MSPA) noted on the seventh day of the strike in the sugar sector that the parties have not yet reached a mutual resolution to this crisis, but declared that they are managing their operations in the best possible manner under the circumstances, while preparing for an efficient resumption of work.
Meanwhile, MSPA said intimidation cases continued but it had noticed a tendency on the part of a greater number of employees towards resuming work.
Regarding the negotiations, Jean Li, Director at the MSPA, noted the Joint Negotiating Panel (JNP) contention that it is making great “efforts” to meet the MSPA half-way by agreeing to reduce the wage demand from 40% to 13%, but noted that it is easy to make such “efforts” when starting from an exaggerated and unreasonable stance to begin with.
Moreover, the MSPA director noted that the JNP is putting additional conditions at each stage, which is causing the negotiations to become unduly stretched.
Jean Li gave the example of the wage agreements, for which the salary hike had always been proposed over a four-year horizon, and the JNP is now trying to change the rules after 18 months of negotiations, and requesting the salary increase to be granted over a squeezed timeframe of two years instead of the usual 4 years.
“It is like asking the government to grant, as from January 2015, all salary compensation provided for the next four years. Also, it must be noted that this new payment application over two years would have an additional financial impact of Rs 200 million over the term of the agreement, and would thus amount to changing the whole package,” he pointed out.
“We must not forget that, in addition to this increase, there will be also salary compensation from the government,” said Jean Li.
He highlighted that the government decided yesterday, November 26, 2014, to grant the 4% of compensation that was payable by employers in January 2015.
However, the members of the MSPA rued that negotiations will not succeed due to several other conditions that the union wants to impose.
For example, the union has consistently refused that the points of the MSPA be considered in the context of a possible arbitration.
Regarding yesterday’s demonstration, which was claimed to have its roots in the low compensation given to employees, members of the MSPA reiterated that compensation in the sector follows a model that is no longer used in other sectors of the Mauritian economy.
Thus, even if the basic salary of sugar sector workers appears low, a high element of bonus gets added, as do gratuities and other bonuses that are double — or more — the basic salary of the employee.
Christian Marot, Chief Operating Officer at Alteo Agri, took the example of a medium cane cutter, who might receive a total remuneration of Rs 32,500 per month.
“At Alteo, our best cutter receives Rs 63,200 per month. And there are many others who are very close to it in terms of remuneration. A medium tractor driver gets Rs 30,500 per month while the one who drives the harvester receives Rs 39,000 per month. Basic salaries are not at all representative of the remuneration in the sector,” the latter concluded.