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Women Cleaners: Stop the Exploitation!

The plight of these women cleaners should not be viewed in isolation but rather as an integral part of a system gone completely wrong. In a country whose past was marred by unscrupulous exploitation of the labour force, it is disconcerting that, in 2017, workers are still being cheated upon by vultures who dare call themselves entrepreneurs. Contrary to popular belief, exploiters do come in all forms and colours…
To get to the bottom of this scandal, one need not possess psychic powers. This is a textbook case of neo-liberalism à la sauce mauricienne. It is well documented that the enduring strength of traditional political parties in Mauritius has to do with the army of ‘roder bout’ which swarm around political leaders during electoral campaigns and who readily trade their political support in exchange of favours if their favourite eventually becomes a member of Cabinet. It would be interesting to know how many of the German luxury cars that we increasingly see on our roads have been purchased using taxpayers’ money. More interestingly, I think it would be a real eye-opener if we could ascertain the lifestyle of those ‘entrepreneurs’ who exploit those poor women as part of their business venture.
Privatisation of chunks of activities previously under the control of government has become the hallmark of neoliberalism around the world. Done in the name of ‘efficiency’ and ‘smaller government’, privatisation has unfortunately often been used to offer a ‘bout’ to the army of ‘roder bout’. In this instance, government had recourse to private companies to undertake the maintenance of primary schools. Nothing suspicious so far. Especially since the prevailing legislation obliges the private operator to reward its employees with similar working conditions as the one provided by the public sector for the same type of job. This is where le bât blesse. The entrepreneur turns magician and decides that these women cleaners should be employed on a temporary basis only. Working hours have been deregulated in a controversial manner recently and thus, those engaging in part time work are like sheep fed to a pack of hungry wolves. The result:  Rs 1,500 per month! It is usually up to the farmer to protect the sheep from the wolves but in our Mauritius, the farmer and the sheep feast at the same table! How the Government of Mauritius uses taxpayers’ money to fund a private business venture which exploits low skilled workers should be beyond the commoner’s understanding but then again, we are in Mauritius, a pseudo-democracy and a neo-colonial state where local Kings have replaced the departing Queen. And it is exactly this sad state of affairs whose 50th birthday we shall commemorate (not celebrate) in a few months.
What kind of society are we building if we cannot provide our children basic sanitation facilities on a continuous basis? Because that is also what is at stake here. Basically, our elected government is telling us that our children do not deserve to be publicly educated in a clean and healthy environment. They are telling us that Mauritian public schools should not be tidy at all times. I am sure that many readers will have had attended public schools at different times since Independence and that they will each have had their own experience of public sanitation on school premises. Mine, in hindsight, was certainly not a pleasant one. I shall spare you the details, not out of respect, but only because I am sure that you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Mauritius ranks 141st out of 195 countries when it comes to how much of its GDP it spends on its education sector. Are we surprised?
These courageous women cleaners deserve to be employed on a full time basis and deserve to have access to a decent salary. Our children deserve a clean and healthy environment at school.  Can this ‘fou-pa-mal’ government make a rational decision for once?