A Seychelles Federation Workers’ Union perspective-Post 70s: Evolution of conditions of work in Seychelles |29 April 2010
It has to be remembered that in the 1970s the external politics of the colonial mandate for its colonies in Africa and elsewhere was the systematic treatment of the population as second class citizens.
The concept of economic development reflected the interest of the colony in maintaining an economy of multifaceted dependence of its subjective countries.
It was for this reason that the 1970s saw the Seychelles with an economy designed to maintain the Government of Seychelles as the largest employer in the country, an insignificant private sector, and an exploited unorganised and badly paid “unestablished” group of government workers.
Work existing in Seychelles revolved mainly in Agricultural plantations, construction and the introduction of tourism related employment. It is pertinent to note that these jobs were overtly badly paid.
These jobs, mostly unskilled, were namely plantation jobs on estates, recruiting men and women as well as domestic workers then named nennenn, a negative term tantamount to paid slavery where these workers were not legally protected.
These workers could earn an average of 12 to 25 rupees per month. The predominant salary and wage structure was then based on ‘task work’ system. However a slightly better paid group of workers was the government sector.
In the 1970s the government was the biggest employer with a total of 2385 employees. 1308 were employed by the public department, 607 by the agricultural sector and 410 in other government sectors. The government department with a highest workforce was the medical department with 132 workers. Salaries in government sector ranged from SR100 to a maximum of SR230 monthly.
The legal frame work
Whilst looking at the present established legal framework compared to the legal security availed to workers in the 1970s, it is obvious that the progress achieved has been very significant. Benefits enjoyed then existed at the limited few of:
(1) 14 days annual leave
(2) 1 ½ month maternity leave
(3) 1 month sick leave full pay and 1 at half pay
(4) Death gratuity equivalent to 1 month salary
(5) Compensation for on-the-job injuries
(6) Retiring allowances
This list is incomparable to existing acts, legislation, an independent employment tribunal and working rights enshrined in the National Constitution all of which serves to dignify the concept of work compared to the colonial era.
Change in employment status
This gradual process started as far back as 1967 with the emergence of trade unions which gradually evolved under more progressive leadership to pressure the British government to implement significant changes in salaries and other working conditions. The most significant of changes however happened in 1977 with the establishment of a workers’ government wherein major events such as membership to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the ratification of core ILO conventions and other important ILO standards binding the government to align its workers’ programme to the stipulations of various international instruments.
The world of work today
After three decades of progressive evolution, work in Seychelles stands at a junction with two directions. The first being an avenue of retrocession whereon certain ideologies are advancing a thought that workers are being over protected by law, and it is time that the law is reviewed to facilitate the employer a more open hand to hire and fire workers at the convenience of the investors’ capital.
On the other hand, it is a school of thought believing that the present law upholding the working status needs to be upheld, and reviewed with an objective to strengthen the economic foundation of Seychelles on the basis of a harmonious industrial relation between employers and workers from workplace level to national bipartite structures between federated unions and employers.
The Seychelles Federation of Workers Union (SFWU)
The Seychelles Federation of Workers Union (SFWU) is the leader and champion of the belief that the hard earned achievement of work needs to be upheld at all costs. Its conviction is rooted in the ILO culture that social justice is based on decent work achievable through the four following strategic objectives of:
(1) Upholding rights at work
(2) Social protection
(4) Social dialogue
A contribution from the Seychelles Federation of Workers’ Union (SFWU)