Years of campaigning by trade unions in Mauritius have paid off as the government approves a new minimum wage package totalling 9,000 Mauritian rupees per month (US$257) from next year.
The new monthly minimum wage announced in parliament on 8 December is Rs 8,140 (US$232) but various compensation payments by the government or the Mauritius Revenue Authority will mean that all workers will take home Rs 9,000.
"I can assure you that for 2019, employees will not be paid less than 9,000 rupees," declared the Labour Minister for Mauritius, Soodesh Callichurn, about the decision that will benefit around 120,000 workers in the country.
It will be a significant increase for many workers, particularly those in the textile sector, some of whom were averaging only RS 4,000 (US$114) a month, according to unions. Ninety per cent of workers in the Mauritian textile and garment industry are women; conditions are tough and many need to stand all day while they work.
Once the new minimum wage comes into effect, these garment workers will be paid RS 9,000 for a 45-hour week. It will mean they will no longer have to work such long hours to scrape a living.
However, the figure is still below what trade unions judge to be a living wage, calculated at around RS 14,500 (US$414) in 2014.
Reeaz Chuttoo from Industrial Global Union affiliate in Mauritius, the Chemical, Manufacturing and Connected Trades Employees Union (CMCTEU), said:
"It's a step in the right direction. I also appreciate that the government has decided to include the 20,000 workers in the free trade zone (in Mauritius)."
Trade unions have been pushing for the new minimum wage during tripartite negotiations with the government and employers in Mauritius.
Industrial's assistant general secretary, Jenny Holdcroft, said:
"This is an important win for trade unions in Mauritius. Years of campaigning have paid dividends and the new minimum wage will make an enormous difference to the lives of thousands of workers, particularly women. We congratulate our affiliates in Mauritius on their success as they continue to push for a living wage."