Archive for the ‘Trade Unions & Industrial Relations’ Category

At its weekly meeting today, the Cabinet approved the recommendations made by the NPC. The Finance Minister stated it’ll cost more than Rs 3.5 billions to implement the recommendations. He’s is particularly concerned about the payment capacity of small enterprises who are facing fierce competitions and evolving challenges. Although he believes that some sectors can pay more than the recommended amount, he’s been all the time in favour of a compensation based on productivity and capacity to pay rather than on the only inflationary rate index.


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If you remember my posts “Union Leaders demonstrate as NPC holds its first meeting” and “Trade Union Outcry”, I mentioned about the controversy around the setting up and functioning of the National Pay Council (NPC).

The NPC held its ultimate meeting yesterday and gave its final recommendations to the government with regard to the quantum of salary compensation that should be paid this year to workers for loss of purchasing power. It has proposed an 8.7% compensation or an amount varying from Rs 260 for those with a basic salary of Rs 3000 monthly to Rs 400 for those earning Rs 8000 and more. The NPC President says it’s a fair deal resulting from a consensus from all parties concerned at a 2-hour meeting held at Victoria House yesterday afternoon. It’s worth noting that a compensation of 10.5% based on the rate of inflation was due according to the trade unions while the employers’ representatives had proposed 5.5%.

Several hundreds of people joined the major trade unions along with the opposition political parties at a mass rallye this afternoon. They brought along kitchen utensils to demonstrate they are at a loss running their households due to excessive price rises on basic commodities and to express their concern on the inadequate compensation proposed.

The Minister of Industrial Relations and Employment and other members of the government boasted it was an unprecedented amount ever granted. Last year’s was a meagre amount of Rs 135 granted across the board.

The recommendations will be considered at the Cabinet meeting of tomorrow. We’ll then know the official stand of the government on the issue. It’s most unlikely that the proposals will be amended.

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So the National Pay Council (NPC) held its first meeting today despite union uproar. Other meetings are scheduled in the days to come. The main issue on the table is the determination of the amount of compensation for loss of purchasing power due to rising inflation.

Each year at this particular period, representatives of the government, employers and employees meet to discuss this issue. This year the inflation is forecast at 10.5%. The trade unions and opposition political parties have been claiming a full compensation at the inflationary rate. The NPC will submit its recommendations to government on 25 May 2007.

But the trade unions are unhappy with the way the NPC has been set up. See my previous post “Trade Union Outcry”. The leaders held a demonstration in front of the Government House while the meeting was on at Sir Harilall Vaghjee Hall this morning.

They are also organizing a mass meeting on 18 May 2007 to decide on the next course of action. They are making a pressing appeal to the Prime Minister to reconsider the issue to their satisfaction. They’ve already alerted the ILO as they believe government has flouted Conventions 87, 98 and 144* which provide for the freedom of association, the right to organize, collective bargaining and tripartite consultation.

The Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations said he had invited the trade union confederations to participate in the tripartite forum. But they didn’t respond; they boycotted the NPC. That’s why he proceeded with the appointment of other individual trade union leaders. His main concern at the moment is to see to it that the issue of compensation is thrashed out before the start of the next budgetary preparations due in the month of June.

The Minister explained that the NPC’s functioning will be different from the traditional yearly forum. This new body is expected to meet normally at three months’ intervals or at other intervals depending on issues.

* Notes:
• ILO Convention 87: Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948
• ILO Convention 98: Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949
• ILO Convention 144: Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards), 1976

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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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