Government Teachers Union
Government Teachers Union
Workshop with EI in
GTU on the theme :
Women & trade
23 – 25 July 2014
General information on trade unions
Women and trade unions
Women’s involvement in union activities
Increasing women’s participation in trade
A presentation by Mr. Y. Fokeerbux
Trade union in Mauritius dates
back to the colonial period. It
started in the year 1930. The
workers under the leadership of
Dr Maurice Curé, Emmanuel
started organising to defend
their rights. The workers were
very much determined to fight
the colonialist against the
people even paid for their lives
at that period.
History of trade unions
The first Labour Day was
organised on 1 May 1938
by Curé, Anquetil and
Sahadeo who held a public
meeting which gathered a
huge crowd of around
35 000 workers at Champs
The first strike in Mauritius was
staged by Dock workers on 1st
September 1938 organised by
Anquetil. Some 350 dockers were
jailed. 12 dockers were prosecuted.
Industrial relations had worsened to
such a point that a State of
Emergency was proclaimed.
On 7th September 1938 Anquetil
was exiled to Rodrigues along
with his 15 year old son, John.
He returned from exile on 30th
November 1938 and he
continued the workers’ struggle.
In July 1938, the Government appointed
six labour inspectors for the first time.
They were ::
1. Mr. J.N.Roy
2. Mr. G. Ramgoolam
3. Mr. G. Mayer
4. Mr. K. Hazareesingh
5. Mr. R. de Robillard
6. Mr. S.C. Ahmed
Industrial unrest had spread to the agricultural sector as well in
the same year. Sugar cane workers had started to protest against
their harsh and unbearable working conditions and pay. Strikes
and demonstration marches in the agricultural sector were
spearheaded by H. Ramnarain and Jugdambi.
The first Minimum Wage Board was set up in 1939. But
unfortunately, most of its recommendations were rejected by the
workers. There was no Tribunal or Industrial Court as we have
today. Consequently, the industrial issues could not be pursued
further for redress to the satisfaction of workers. Therefore, strikes
and demonstrations march became very regular all over the island.
A historical demonstration of
workers is that of Belle Vue Harel
which ended in police firing,
bloodshed and death on 27
September, 1947 where Mrs Anjaley
Coopen, a pregnant women worker
along with three other male
Anjaley Coopen, the
Mauritian symbol of
matyrdom in the
history of labour
The three other victims were Mr.
Kistnasamy Mooneesamy, Mr.
Moonsamy Moonien and Mr. Marday
Mrs Anjalay Coopen, Kistnasamy
Mooneesamy and Mr. Moonsamy
Moonien died during the shooting
while Mr. Marday Panapen died nine
days after at the Jeetoo Hospital.
In the history of labour struggle,
this event is remembered as the
‘Belle Vue Harel massacre ‘ which
took place on 27th September
1943. These four sugar cane
workers were killed and became
the martyrs of the Mauritian
working class movement.
Anjalay Coopen, an important
historical figure of early modern
Mauritius, has become a tangible and
iconic symbol of the Mauritian
people’s struggle for their human
rights against British colonial tyranny
and sugar planters in the 1940s.
Collective bargaining was not possible
in the 1940s as Industrial Associations
were organised on a regional basis.
Following the ‘Belle Vue Harel
massacre,’ Mr. H. Ramnarain went on a
hunger strike in Goodlands which
lasted for twenty two days.
Following that hunger strike, a
Commission of Enquiry was set up
presided by M. Sydney Moody and
one of the recommendation of that
commission was to request for an
expert who would guide the Trade
It was on 22 March 1945, when
Mr. Kenneth Baker arrived to
advise the government, that Trade
unions came into existence. He
also advised government on issues
pertaining to Labour Associations.
1945 would always remain a memorable
year in the history of Trade Unionism.
On 04 January 1945, Mr. E. Anquetil
registered the “Engineering and
Technical Workers Union” having as
membership the artisans and nonagricultural workers all around the
He also set up the first Workers
Federation: “Mauritius Trade Union
Congress” comprising of all Unions
that existed at that time in 1946.
It was in the same year that Anquetil
sought and obtained affiliation to the
“World Trade Union International”
Employees of the Civil Service also formed
Government Railways’ Workers
Government Printing Trade
Mauritius Government Servants’
Government Teachers’ Union.
The 01 May 1950 was
proclaimed as a Public Holiday,
following a motion tabled at
the Legislative Assembly on 29
During the same period, a unity among
Trade Unionists developed. There was an
amalgamation of the “North and Central
Rivière du Rempart Labourers Industrial
Association” and “ Mauritius Agricultural
Labourers Union” into “Mauritius
Agricultural Labourers Association”
(MALA), which in turn changed its name
into “ Plantation Workers Union” in 1959.
In July 1963, the “Mauritius Trade
Union Congress” and the
“Confederation of Free Trade Union”
merged to form one confederation:
Mauritius Labour Congress.
On the Civil Service side, with
four Unions in 1945, a claim for
a “Central Whitley Council” was
made and its first meeting was
held on 23 March 1949.
Under the impulsion of Guy Rozemont, many
Trade Unions were created namely:
Electrical and Telephone Workers’ Union
Government General Clerical Association
Government Manual Workers’ Union
Government Nursing Association, and
Mr. Eddy Norton, the then General
Secretary of the “Government
Servants’ and Other Employees
Association” was instrumental to
the creation of the “Federation of
Civil Service Unions”. The FCSU
obtained its registration on 12
In1969, in the wake of a new
political party, the MMM
( Mouvement Militant Mauricien),
the Trade Union Movement took a
new turn. New trade unions were
formed which were associated of
their political ideology.
Stoppage of work became a regular
feature. The national economy was
The government had recourse to a
new law: The Public Order Act was
proclaimed in 1970.
Under the initiative of trade unions, with
the impulse of the MMM, workers of the
bus industry went on a general strike which
lasted more than 15 days.
A State of Emergency was thus imposed.
Trade union leaders were arrested and some
Trade Unions of General Workers
Federation, of MMM obedience were
On 18 December 1973, the Parliament voted the
famous IRA (Industrial Relations Act).
The IRA became effective as from 07 February,
Under this law, the Registrar of Associations was
empowered to investigate in internal matters of
the Unions and their finances.
Repressions against Trade Union leaders were so
rigid that many of them faced trials, and
A new law, the Employees Relations Act (E. Re. A),
replacing the Industrial Relations Act became in
force in September 2008.
It is also pitiful to note that for multiple reasons,
the number of Trade Unions has continued to
increase. We have more than 325 Trade Unions,
around 22 Federations and 9 Confederations.
Paradoxically, the number of Union members is
getting low. Less than 20% of the total workforce
However, since its inception in
1945, the GTU has defied this
statistical reality by attracting a
solid enrolment and retention of its
membership. Almost all the
government primary school
teachers are members of the
Government Teachers Union.
The educational statistics reveal that
more than 75 % of the teaching force
of the primary schools are females.
The majority of them are GTU
This evidences that the GTU caters for
its members irrespective of gender.
The history of labour movements and
trade unions across the world,
particularly in America and the
European countries is older than that
of Mauritius. After the World War,
trade union movements got much
momentum following the belief of
However, the participation of women
in trade unions remained low
although there was an increase in
This was due to the different pattern
of work choice of women. Women
preferred the ‘white blouse jobs’ and
difficult works were for men only.
During the last century, women's
participation in the labour force was
limited by traditional cultural, educational,
and legal practices. Women's work outside
of home and marriage was restricted to a
handful of occupations such as domestic
service, factory work, farm work, teaching
and health care.
Following the expansion of the work
market, more and more women
started joining the labour force.
However, women’s representation in
trade unions still remain underrepresented.
Data on women’s representation in
education unions, including data from
previous EI (Education International)
surveys, consistently shows that
women constitute the majority of the
teaching force and the union
membership, but they are
underrepresented in the union
Although the periods of growth in
women's trade union membership usually
coincided with overall union expansion,
the unions themselves cannot claim the
sole credit for organising women workers.
That task fell to women themselves. The
Women's Trade Union League (formerly
the Women's Protective and Provident
League founded in 1874) became more
militant and abandoned some of the
policies of its predecessors. The secretary
of the League, Clementina Black, moved
the first successful equal pay resolution at
the 1888 Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The League supported strikes and
encouraged women to join existing trade
Yet, it should be pointed out that
women have made strides of
achievement against discrimination
and equal pay for equal work.
This has been possible due to
women’s militancy through the
Women Trade Union League which
was integrated in the TUC in 1921.
A study by the International Labour
Organisation (ILO 2008) reveals that
women make up a majority of
teachers unions membership: Almost
two third of the unions that
responded the survey have between
50 to 80 % female members. The
global average is 60 % female
African teacher unions have the lowest percentage of female
members (average 40%). Three quarters of African unions have
fewer than 50% female members.
- Caribbean teacher unions have the highest percentage of female
members (average 76%). Almost all Caribbean unions have over
70% female members.
In the other regions, the average of female members lies between
55 and 70%, but there is a great variety within the regions
(minimum: 3%; maximum: 93%).
In Mauritius, being given that the teaching profession is becoming
highly feminized, GTU has almost around 75 % of female members.
While women represent the majority
of union members in most regions,
they are underrepresented in the
union leadership. The higher the
decision-making body, the lower is
the percentage of women.
When it comes to leadership positions in EI’s member organisations, the data
shows that women are strongly underrepresented in the front line (24%
presidents, 34% general secretaries) and better represented in the second row
(48% vice-presidents, 42% deputy general secretaries), but even there, the
percentage of women is under 50% and far lower than their proportion in the
membership. There are regional differences:
- In Africa and North America, the proportion of female members is well reflected
in presidents and vice-presidents, but women are underrepresented in general
secretaries and deputy general secretaries.
- In the Caribbean, women are strongly underrepresented in general secretaries.
The other positions more or less reflect the proportion of women in the union
- In Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, women are underrepresented in all
high positions. In Europe that especially concerns general secretaries; in Latin
America and Asia-Pacific especially presidents.
Factors that prevent women to participate in union activities:
1. Lack of understanding about the benefits of union
2. Lack of time due to family responsibilities
3. The union is not sensitive to the specific needs of female
4. Cost of trade union subscriptions
5. Male domination of trade union activities
6. Fear of reprisals from the employer for having joined a
7. Discouragement or hostile reactions from colleagues
8. Discouragement or hostile reactions from their spouses
Many unions across the world have mechanisms
for gender equality. The GTU also has a
mechanism although it is not statutory. It must
be further enhanced. Since the 80s, GTU has a
Women’s wing which celebrates the
International Women’s Day (8th March). The
International Day for the Elimination of Violence
against Women (25 November) must also
become a current annual feature. There is no
discrimination for women’s representation as
School Delegates and participate in Delegates’
1. GTU must seriously think about gender equality and women’s representation in
the front line of leadership positions.
2. The number of women at the Committee level must be increased.
3. Co-opted seats must be allocated to women.
4. Regular trainings must be organised for women members.
5. Women members have shown that they can rock the streets. They must take
initiatives to protest against cases of discrimination against women in any work
6. Organise exhibition on women’s struggle.
7. Encouraged to voice their opinions through articles on gender equality in trade
union in the union’s newspaper and magazines.
8. Organise health education for women.
9. Women Wing should work in cooperation with international organisations.
10. Women members must be encouraged to prepare research papers on gender
issues and protection of women at work.
1. Ashok Ramnarain: A brief history of trade unions in Mauritius
3. ILO research paper 2008