Mauritius sugar industry workers strike over pay dispute

Workers call for 40 per cent pay rise

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) — Around 4,000 workers in the Mauritius sugar industry went on indefinite strike on Wednesday over a pay dispute with sugar producers, potentially hitting output of the island's key crop.

Sugar, a centuries-old pillar of the economy, accounts for roughly 1.2 per cent of the Indian Ocean state's $10 billion gross domestic product.

It was not immediately clear how much sugar production had been affected on the first day of the strike, but officials from the producer's association said a prolonged strike would reduce output and possibly impact their earnings.

The striking workers, mostly labourers represented by the Joint Negotiating Panel, want a 40 per cent pay rise and a 100 per cent increase in benefits but the Mauritius Sugar Producers' Association has offered an 11 per cent pay increase over four years.

"The strike is a tool that we will use for the respect of labour rights," Ashok Subron, a JNP spokesman told the media.

A few staff not represented by the union, mostly administrative staff, were at work, the sugar association said.

Mauritius sugar producers have seen profits fall this year after global prices for the sweetener dipped due to a huge overhang of stocks after four straight years of surpluses.

Last week listed sugar producer Alteo reported a 57 per cent decline in first-quarter profit, and said the strike would have a detrimental effect on its second-quarter results.

Leading Mauritian sugar exporter Omnicane also reported weaker pretax profit, blaming low sugar prices.

Latest stories