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Working people in times of economic crisis: Casual Labourers


Rose-Belle Sugar Estate, a state-run sugar estate, like other private sugar estates, is taking on labourers on a casual basis. Labourers are recruited and receive their pay at the estate office. Unlike employees, they are not given raincoats, boots, or tools. All they are given are gloves and nets. Even then, they get their gloves late, well after the "once every 12 days" they were told about. The estate sends an overseer to supervise gangs of casual labourer. Many of the casual labourers were formerly employed labourers whose jobs as employees have been destroyed in the last 10-15 years through the "VRS" ("Voluntary" Retirement Scheme lump sum and a plot of land). So now, estate labourers receive a daily wage of Rs171 and nothing else. No sick leave, local leave, pension, job security. No work equipment except for gloves and nets.

The first phase of economic crisis began with structural crisis in the sugar industry, which had traditionally been the backbone of the Mauritian economy. With the disappearance of a guaranteed sugar quota and preferential price under the Lomé protocol, sugar estates centralised and mechanised their operations and have been destroying jobs by the thousand in sugar plantations and mills.

Before 1964, the times everyone recognizes as the "bad old days", workers were only taken on during the harvest season. It took years of revolts, strikes and political organising for workers to be become "employees", working all-year round. 45 years later, sugar industry workers have become casual workers again.

LALIT has an ongoing campaign for an alternative democratically-controlled political economy that creates jobs instead of destroying them. Please view LALIT's Program on Economic Alternatives in our site's documents section for more detail.