Jul 15, 2009
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Mauritius to expel Bangladeshi workers

Jul 15, 2009

By Jean Paul Arouff

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Mauritius is to send home thousands of Bangladeshi workers by the end of 2009 in a move to protect local jobs in the downturn-hit textile sector, trade unions backing the migrant workers said.

Some 6,000 male Bangladeshi workers, 4,000 of whom work in clothing factories, have been ordered to leave within six months, according to union leaders on the palm-fringed island of 1.3 million people.

"Following the economic crisis, the textile sector is suffering and some companies need to sack workers in order to survive. So the government has decided to repatriate the Bangladeshis," Reaz Chuttoo, President of the Confederation for Private Sector Workers, told Reuters late on Tuesday 14 July.

Senior trade union officials said the government hoped to safeguard Mauritian jobs in a sector shaken over the last 12 months by record high oil prices, a strong local unit and the global economic downturn.

Unemployment in Mauritius rose to 8.0 percent during the first quarter of 2009 from 6.2 percent in the previous quarter, despite a $320 million (192 million pounds) stimulus package in December to bolster jobs.

"If this decision was meant to encourage local firms to employ Mauritians and reduce the unemployment rate I would have understood," Fayzal Ally Beegun, Chairman of the Textile Manufacturing and Allied Industries Workers Union, told Reuters.

"But local people are not interested in the textile sector after labour market reforms made it easier to hire and fire."

Manufacturing clothing is a traditional pillar of the island's $9-billion economy. It contributes 6.5 percent of gross domestic product and accounts for 11 percent of employment, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Trade union officials said the Bangladeshi labourers would fight for compensation.

Government officials declined to explain why they were expelling the Bangladeshis.

"It is a government decision. We are going to ensure that they receive all their dues before leaving," Labour Minister Jean Francois Chaumiere told Reuters.

(Additional reporting and writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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