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  • Peri Batliwala

New Internationalist Article on Diego Garcia


In this long read web-exclusive for New Internationalist, long-time Chagossian supporter Katie McQue focuses on the hitherto untold story of the unjust treatment of Filipino contract workers on

the US military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island in the Chagos

Archipelago.

Throughout the piece Ms McQue references the ongoing fight of the Chagossian people to win justice following their cruel deportation and neglect in exile.

It turns out that Diego Garcia isn’t just the site of the brutal

expulsion of its indigenous islanders in 1960/70s, it also

has an ongoing history of underpaying, overworking and abusing the

employment rights of its non-military manual workers who service the base in

cleaning, caretaking and construction jobs.

Through interviews with anonymous workers, gathered over a 2 year

investigation, McQue reveals that some workers have been earning around US$2

an hour for working a minimum of 9 hours per day, 6 days a week.

This is because, even though they work in a US dollar-based economy, salaries are

indexed to the volatile Philippino peso – meaning a 44% decrease. As

unemployment is high in the Philippines, there is a ready supply of people

desperate to work for lower wages on isolated islands far from their families. A

big proportion of these wages will then be sent home to support wives and

children.

Furthermore when it comes to injuries and accidents to the manual workers in

the course of their work, they are not compensated according to prevailing wage

rates and compensation for similar circumstances in UK/USA but according to

the lower rate of the Philippines – a clear breach of just and reasonable pay

practices.


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